Sunday, March 22, 2009

TSS - Review - The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

Synopsis from publisher:

For a group of four New York friends the past decade has been defined largely by marriage and motherhood, but it wasn't always that way. Growing up, they had been told that their generation would be different. And for a while this was true. They went to good colleges, and began high-powered careers. But after marriage and babies, for a variety of reasons, they decided to stay home, temporarily, to raise their children. Now, ten years later, they are still at home, unsure how they came to inhabit lives so different from the ones they expected-until a new series of events begins to change the landscape of their lives yet again, in ways they couldn't have predicted.

My thoughts:

This was a very interesting book for me. It's something I think about quite a lot, and a discussion that comes up among my all-female coworkers fairly frequently. There is the guilt of the mothers who feel like they don't ever get to see their kids because they work all the time. And there is the guilt of the moms who stay home, but feel like they don't do enough to "contribute". It's a sad, sad guilt game, and this book had a lot to say about both sides of this issue.

Amy, Jill, and Roberta all have basically good lives. They have husbands who love them, kids who are well-behaved, and the freedom to do what they want. They also all experience a vague, somewhat distant feeling of dissatisfaction with their lives. Each of them were somewhat ambivalent about their careers before having children, so dropping out of work to take care of their babies was a fairly easy decision. Now, ten-ish years later, each woman is wondering if she made the wrong decision.

It is, at times, difficult to feel sympathetic for these three women. They are, after all, in the place they have arrived at due to decisions they each made. And, really, there are a lot of women who don't have the luxury of not working, who would say that these three don't have a lot to complain about. But Wolitzer manages to allow them to air their feelings of discontent without sounding whiny, and I found I could imagine and relate to the reasons why their lives have taken them someplace they didn't intend to go.

Wolitzer has a fairly obvious opinion on the subject she writes about, and at times it feels like she is whacking the reader over the head with that opinion. But she also infuses the novel with humor, and poignancy, that keep it from becoming to preachy or stern. She also intersperses the modern-day narrative with glimpses from the past, about the decisions each woman's own mother had to face about working or staying home. These short chapters were a nice break from the more somber tone of the rest of the novel.

The "Mommy Wars", as it has sometimes been called, is not an issue that will be resolved overnight. What seems clear is that women are made to feel guilty no matter which choice they make. While we certainly have come a long way, and the ability to choose to work is important, this novel shows that we still have quite a long way to go.

Finished: 3/20/09
Source: FSB Associates
Rating: 7/10


debnance said...

It's a difficult decision, isn't it? And many people never even get the choice. It's nice to have the decision; my mom never got the opportunity.

bermudaonion said...

That book sounds like it makes good food for thought. There seem to be so many pressures on women these days and no matter what you decide to do, someone is critical of it. I don't know why we can't be more supportive of each other.

mar10123 said...

I know I was blessed to be able to have the "best of both worlds" - I could work if I wanted to, or stay home if I chose. One of the best gifts your Dad ever gave me. I got the most criticizm - no matter which route I chose - from Grandma H.

Literary Feline said...

I have been curious about this book for some time now. I am not a parent and don't know that I ever will be, but it's an issue that is hard not to be aware of, especially in the workplace surrounded by mothers who are juggling both home and a career.

My mother was lucky to be able to stay at home with my brother and I for most of our early childhood. She did go back into teaching when we were a bit older.

I probably would work if I had a child. I would have to, really. I'm the main breadwinner between my husband and I and my job includes the health insurance. If anyone stayed at home between my husband and I, it would most likely be him. Now there's an entirely different controversy! Haha

I don't think women should be made to feel guilty for having to work outside of the home, regardless of it being a choice or not. I also don't think women who choose to stay home should be made to feel guilty or less than either. It's sad that such a controversy exists at all.

violetcrush said...

This book for me could be very difficult to read. Even though now I say i would never quit my job, I don't know how i will handle it if i do in the future. It would be difficult even it would be my decision. Glad you enjoyed the book...

Petunia said...

I believe that if we do the best that we can with what we are given then we have no reason to feel guilt or regret. Everyone makes a contribution to society whether they run a company or raise a child. I'm a proud homeschooling mom but I hope I never make any woman feel guilty for not doing the same.

Zibilee said...

Sometimes I feel very judged for being a stay-at-home mom. I feel that some people just don't understand the decision I have made and think I have taken the easy way out. Usually I don't bother to try to explain because I really don't feel I need to justify my decision to anyone, but it does make me feel a bit misunderstood at times.

LeahV said...

I think I should read this book. I have often felt the unspoken criticism (real or imagined) from a society that presses me to feel "less than" for staying home. I know in my heart it was the right choice for me and my family, and yet the guilt associated with my choice tends to encourage me to overcommit myself in volunteer activities, as if by giving back to the community in such a way, I can ease some of the guilt - or justify my choice. Most of my volunteer activities are ones I enjoy and would not want to give up, but occasionally I am coerced into something I know is a bad idea, and it is at those times I wonder about my motivation.

Elizabeth said...

It's just so frustrating to me that other people would judge anyone based on the decision they made that WORKS FOR THEIR FAMILY! Some women need the connections with the outside world that a job gives them - why should they be judged for that? Some families need the extra income - why should they be judged for that? Some women believe the best thing for their family is to stay home - why should they be judged for that? Why do we have to be SO HARD on each other for making decisions that are not easy, whatever the outcome. It was a very interesting book, certainly.