Monday, April 27, 2015
The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
Published March 2008 by Penguin Group
Source: this one was all mine
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.
Okay, okay, I know she's something of a media darling but listening to this book almost made me want to take a ten-year nap. That is all.
What? You want to know why?
For one thing, I always take exception to authors who want to "bad mouth" women who choose to stay home to raise their children. Because I did. I never gave up a high-powered job; I didn't fall off the fast track in choosing to stay home. But it did hurt my job prospects when I tried to get back in the work force after almost ten years away from it.
Sure, there were times when I got tired of cutting other people's food, picking up toys twenty-four seven, and hearing the word "mom." And, oh, how I craved adult conversation! But I don't ever regret my decision. I know, in my heart, that it is one of the reasons my three are so close now and why they are so close to me. So when Wolitzer wants to make it seem like every woman who ever made the choice (or had that choice made for her), regrets it to at least some extent, my hackles get raised. What's more, I think it only serves to make the divide between working moms and "stay-at-home" moms wider.
The publisher called Wolitzer's writing "wickedly observant" and "knowing." Me, not so much. Although all of her characters had different backgrounds and families, they all felt a bit generic to me. And those four friends? Yeah, the book is about so many more women than those four friends; in fact, Wolitzer is still bringing new characters into the story nearly right up to the end of the book, pulling me away from that core story line as she tries to explain to her readers how these four friends, and all of the women of their generation squandered the advances the generation before them had made for women. That kind of guilt I don't need (I'm carrying quite enough of it around already, thank you very much).
About midway through this one, my friend Mari reminded me that neither of us had liked Wolitzer's The Uncoupling very much. I should have given that more thought and moved on. Because even though I was trapped in the car anyway, I could certainly have been listening to something I enjoyed a lot more.
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As a former SAHM, I appreciate your comments on this one.ReplyDelete
When I was working and the boys were little, I felt so much guilt for not being with them. When I didn't work, I felt guilty for "not contributing." As if taking raising the kids and taking care of the home weren't contributing. I blame women for making me feel guilty no matter what choice I made. We need to stop doing that to each other!Delete
This definitely does not sound like a book for me either! I did give up a fairly prestigious career to be a Stay At Home Mom and like you don't regret it at all. I'm 100 times happier than I was when I was working and don't need a book to make me feel defensive. I hate when people - in real life or book form - make it seem like their way is the only way.ReplyDelete
I will say that when I got the chance to do something where I could shine outside of just being a mom, I jumped all over it. Spent years doing volunteer work for the schools and my kids swim teams which gave me everything I needed - recognition for my accomplishments, a chance to use my skills and adults to interact with!Delete
I've read The Interestings and did not like it at all. I found the characters to be stereotypical and the plot lines to be too predictable. I could never understand why everyone raved about the book. I just did see the brilliance in that book that everyone else seemed to see. So, I downloaded two of her books, because they were super cheap on Amazon, but I have yet to read them. I'm willing to give her work a go again, but after reading this post I'm so glad to find out that I'm not the only one who didn't love one of her books. Hurrah! I don't feel so alone now :) As for this book, I can definitely understand why you didn't like it. I have several friends that are stay at home moms and they tell me the ups and downs of it - but at the end of the day they love being with their kids and taking care of their families. To me it sounds like one of the hardest jobs out there to do. I can never understand why women want to create a divide between women who work outside of the home and women who stay at home - both work super hard. As for regret, well I'm sure both women who stay at home and those who work outside of the home have regrets - who doesn't? This book sounds like its written by someone who wants to defend their choice of working outside of the home by making it seem like those who stay at home wish they hadn't stayed at home. Ack! Sounds like a book I will definitely not be reading.ReplyDelete
I'd really been looking forward to The Interestings, which I'd heard so many great things about. But having now read two books by Wolitzer I didn't really enjoy, I'm a little skittish about picking it up.Delete
I don't understand, either, why women want to fight with each other. Although this book does make the point that the generation before us worked hard so that women could have great opportunities and it's disappointing to them that some women having taken advantage of that. My thought was that I did take advantage of it - I got to make a choice which I would not have gotten decades ago. Also, there was no way that when my hubby came home I was waiting for him with a martini and dinner on the table! I was more likely to be handing him a baby saying "here, it's your turn!"
I don't like the idea that one woman's experience means it must be everyone's experience. I would be agitated and annoyed as well. Good on you for getting through it!ReplyDelete
Your review is insightful and goes to show there are so many voices and experiences to be told when it comes to this topic. I get sensitive about it since I have one child and am a stay at home parent right now. But it's a dialogue and conversation starter about so many things. So that's good. Once again great review!
She tried to make it seem like she was giving readers all different perspectives but none of the women really seemed to enjoy being with their kids and all seemed sad by what they had given up.Delete
Oh, don't get me started on bashing stay-at-home-moms! When our first child was born we didn't even have to discuss it - I quit my job and stayed home. I agree with you completely - best years of my life and a big part of why my kids are who they are. Like you, I didn't give up a career or every regret my decision. In fact, I'm leaving the work force for a second time to attend to my family, and I'm excited to be doing it. (Details in a post tomorrow.)ReplyDelete
The premise of this book sounded interesting but after hearing the attitude of the author. I think I'll save myself the frustration and skip it.
It bugs me a lot when a book has characters of a certain kind but not the opposite kind. I can imagine that there are probably women who regret being a stay at home, but so are there women who totally love it. Just like there are women who wish they didn't have to work. If it's just one character, stuff like that doesn't bother me. But if a whole group of characters are slipped into that persona, that would bug me. One of the books I recently read (The White Tiger) was exactly like this and it bugged me a hell lot.ReplyDelete
As a woman who does not want children, I don't have much to say on the working mom v. SAHM debate. My sister is a SAHM, my mom was until we were in elementary school and then we were latch key kids. I have friends who are working moms because they have no chance and those who do it because they'd die if they could not follow their own passions besides being a mother. I have no problem with any of these choices, as long as the parent is not neglectful or abusive. I've seen too much in my life of working with kids and studying these things in school. I saw an article not long ago bashing SAHMs AND dads. I was like, really? Then another one on how working moms are harming their children by working in their formative years. Again, really? Like there aren't bigger problems in the world for kids?ReplyDelete
I don't know why women are so quick to judge each other's choices. Everyone has to do what's best for them and can only do the best they are able to do at the time. We beat ourselves up enough as it is - we don't need help from the people who should best be able to understand!Delete
I just remembered I have this book somewhere. Now I want to dig it out and read it.ReplyDelete
I remember when this book first came out--I just had to read it. But I didn't. It sat on my shelf for years, unread, until I finally gave my copy away. I never did read it. The more I heard about it, the more I lost interest. I think I might feel differently if the viewpoint was more balanced. Maybe.ReplyDelete
I don't know why it has to be a competition of which is better or worse. Families come in all shapes and sizes and decisions have to be made that are best for each individual family. I wish women in general were more supportive of each other. We are hard enough on ourselves as it is.