The Ten Year Nap

After reading the review of Meg Wolitzer’s latest book, The Ten Year Nap, I was intrigued.  The book is about four women who live in Manhattan (one moves out) who have essentially taken a ten year nap to raise their children.  The ten year nap would be the ten years that they have all been out of the work world. 

It is well written.  Each character is developed by giving background info on their lives growing up and the households they lived in.  I assume so the reader can try to figure out why each is somehow lost by not working or why they are okay with it.  There are plenty of flaws and frustrations in the book but it is a book that could create interesting conversation among many women that I know today, young and old.  The conversation would start about the characters but would quickly move from the book to discuss where each of us are now and why or why not.

One character was a lawyer, one a brilliant mathematician, one who never finished her dissertation to become a professor and another an artist.  Each had children and sort of walked away from their professions.  After ten years, each character seems to still think of themselves as the working person they were or uncomfortable that they don’t have a job or a role that defines them.   Although they each enjoy being there for the kids, they feel lost. They do like being stay at home mothers but at some level feel guilty for it.

I have some friends that made the choice to stay home and are thrilled with how that defines them.  Others who feel that they are lucky and glad to be home to raise their kids but long for something else.  I know of men who if they could would love to pack it in and stay at home as one of the characters father longed for in the book.

After ten years, some of the characters return to the work world.  Not all return to the work they did before.  I found that intriguing.  Many times when one steps back from the work world they are in, they realize they didn’t really enjoy what they were doing.  Taking that break gives them an opportunity to rethink their desires of what might be a better way to fulfill their days.

My career has been all over the place.  As I see more and more young people go from career to career maybe I was before my time.  Yet as I look to the future when my kids all fly the coop, I am thinking about my life then.  My friend gave me some great advice.  She started to color code her calendar which allowed her to really see where she was spending her time.  I am going to go through that exercise as anal as it is.  It allowed her to make choices that she might not have made if it wasn’t so clear cut where her time was being spent.

At times I am quite busy but others I am extremely bored.  Sometimes the boredom kills me and other times it is a gift because this is probably the first time in my life where I have the luxury of downtime.  If I am spending 50% of my time doing things that will only need 10% of my time in six years, I need to really start thinking about what that means.

The Ten Year Nap is not a great novel but the content creates thought certainly for a woman who has made a conscious decision to stay home and raise the kids while putting her career on hold.  Maybe a career was never something of interest, maybe the desire to get back into the camaraderie of business and the swing of things is always calling or the in between years gives you an opportunity to make changes if and when you reenter the working world.  If anything, the book has provided me an opportunity to give thought to the "ten year nap" and other people in similar situations who will and have made very different choices.   Balancing motherhood is never easy and Wolitzer gives the reader some interesting insight.