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    The Ten Year Nap

    March 28, 2008

    Every once in a while, someone will send me an email to review a book. I have to confess. I don’t read anymore. I was starting to wonder if I even remembered HOW to read. But when I got an email from Marjorie at MotherTalk about The Ten Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer, I’ll admit I was intrigued.

    Amy and her friends went to good colleges and began careers as lawyers, film producers, bankers, and artists. But after they got married and had babies, they decided for a variety of reasons to stay home, temporarily, to raise them. Now, ten years later, at age 40, with their children older and no longer in need of their constant presence, and without professions through which to define themselves, the four friends wonder how they got there–in lives so different from the ones they were brought up to expect–and why they have chosen to stay so long.

    Brilliantly written, I found myself reading passages out loud to The Husband.

    Life with a baby was a primitive and powerful as life with a lover. You could never really tell where one body ended and another began; the lines were drawn as crudely as if they had been rendered by a child. When Shelly had nursed Joanne’s baby, they’d entered some strange territory of thought. They didn’t understand it, exactly, but they knew it was as bad as if Joanne had returned to the table and found another woman giving a @#$ * to Joanne’s husband.

    (word intentionally omitted to avoid 900 spam comments)

    Beyond the brilliant writing, I found myself having difficulty relating to the four upper middle class women who didn’t really find their identities until they all went back to jobs. After analyzing it to death, I realized that the real reason I couldn’t relate was a “stage of life” problem. They all got married in their mid-twenties. They had one child at 30 (except for the woman who had twins) and they never had any more kids. They were bored.

    Where I did relate was how they found it difficult to explain who they were to anyone who was not a stay-at-home mom.

    Just last week, as was describing my latest hairbrained scheme to a total stranger, the conversation of my law degree somehow arose.

    “You are licensed and now you make tee shirts? You. Make. Tee. Shirts. And you are a lawyer.”

    He laughed. I laughed too. Maybe I laughed because I never practiced law and didn’t identify myself as a lawyer (until I’m stuck in CLE classes every September). In retrospect I thought that maybe I didn’t think it was funny. Because it gets a little tiring having to explain that I never intended to practice law. That I just graduated 4 years ago. That I was using it as a resume builder for a worthless job I no longer have. That it is tiring that I feel like I HAVE to explain.

    What did I love about the book? The moment of realization for the stay at home mom about the working mom during a discussion on raising boys.

    “I obsess a lot about all of this too,” Amy said quietly, “and it becomes an exercise in self-flagellation.” Then she added, “In case you were wondering, that’s what I do with myself all day.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Self-flagellation.” When Penny just looked at her, still not understanding, Amy mumbled, “Just a joke. About what women like me do all day. You know, the ones who don’t work.”

    “Ah.”

    Conclusively now, she knew that Penny Ramsey didn’t wonder about what women like Amy did all day without a job to go to. Maybe the idea of the supposed tension between working and nonworking mothers had been put out in the world just to cause divisiveness. Happiness didn’t seem to be determined primarily by whether or not you worked.

    Refreshing. Cause I am SO over the SAHM/WM drama. Over it. I have made my bed, I’m lying in it and I get to live with the consequences of my choices. Your choices? Yours.

    16 Comments »

    1. Amie says:

      This author was featured on NPR (I believe the Diane Rehm show?). The book sounds interesting because it relates to the stage of life that we are all going through.
      I think that you have to do what makes you happy and fulfilled inside. If that is SAHM, then that is what you need to do, if it means working, then that is what you need to do. However, we also have to think of the women who do not have a choice to feel fulfilled and HAVE to work without choice. So we should all rejoice in the fact that we have a choice.

      March 28th, 2008 at 5:51 am

    2. tvtown says:

      I know I’m not qualified to relate or even know, but I think SAHM is the hardest job on the planet (if you’re not uber-rich and have nannies out the wazoo).
      People needn’t look farther than how messed up the world is to know how important it is to be there for your child. I’d be a stay at home dad in a second if we could switch places.

      March 28th, 2008 at 6:43 am

    3. K8spade says:

      What about full-time mommies that work part time? I consider myself a SAHM, to be honest. I spend 26 hours away from my baby. And I can’t wait to come home, and get back to work.

      March 28th, 2008 at 7:29 am

    4. Meg says:

      I hate that it gets rehashed over and over and over. I’ve done it both ways, and both worked for my family for different reasons. You gotta go with what’s right for you, because if Mommy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And that goes for Daddy, too.

      March 28th, 2008 at 8:10 am

    5. Shannon says:

      I see what you mean about not relating to the book. I got married in my twenties, and had my first two kids in my twenties. And now with four, I don’t have time to get bored, lol. Amen to the SAHM vs. WM drama!

      March 28th, 2008 at 8:32 am

    6. Anna Marie says:

      Amen Sister! I’m totally over the SAHM/WM thing too. I’m a SAHM because I have to be – one of my two children has special needs – but even if it had totally been my choice it would be just that – MY choice.

      March 28th, 2008 at 10:06 am

    7. Robin says:

      As a Working mom, I think all you SAHMs need to know that we secretly wish we could be at home with our kids too. Even if it would drive us bonkers. I wish I had the option to stay home instead of feeling forced to work because my family needs the income. I wish that I was able to take my kid to playdates that only seem to happen on weekdays during working hours. And on Weekends I never can make playdates because I am busy trying to catch up on all the housework. I am sad everytime my childcare provider tells me he said a new word or reached a new goal and I missed it. I know the SAHM works very hard, has no breaks, and very little support or social interaction. I think it is hard to be a mom either way.

      Also, I totally know what you mean about having to explain degrees that are not used. I have a master’s in special education, no teaching certificate and I work customer relations at a computer company getting paid peanuts – but it is secure, has benefits and pays my mortgage.

      March 28th, 2008 at 10:07 am

    8. MotherTalk says:

      [...] Mommy Needs a Cocktail had trouble relating to the main characters, but resonated strongly with how difficult it is to explain why she is a lawyer who makes tee shirts to anyone who is not a stay-at-home mom. She calls it “Refreshing. Cause I am SO over the SAHM/WM drama. Over it. I have made my bed, I’m lying in it and I get to live with the consequences of my choices.” [...]

      March 28th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    9. Kristi says:

      I soooooo agree! I never understood the WAHM/SAHM drama either. Everybody has a reason for doing what they do and it’s their choice!

      For what it’s worth, I had a “career” first, loved it, and then had kids. My identity: I had a career and now I’m a mommy. I love every minute of it.

      March 29th, 2008 at 5:39 am

    10. Kimberly says:

      God, you are such a bitch ;-)

      March 29th, 2008 at 6:06 am

    11. Claire in CA, USA says:

      The next time someone laughs at your choice of t-shirt maker (a gross understatement) over lawyer, please say (for me):

      I found the title “entrepeneur” to fit me much better than “ambulance chaser.”

      Yeah, I worked in law offices for years.

      I am a former career woman, now stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, AND entrepeneur. Nothing I do is as important as shaping the lives of my children, and sending them out into the world with good morals, values and standards.

      March 29th, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    12. the mama bird diaries says:

      That may be one of the best book reviews I’ve ever read. Sounds like a very interesting book. Are you going to actually motivate me to pick up a book and READ?

      April 1st, 2008 at 7:38 am

    13. Meg Wolitzer says:

      Hey, thanks for the thoughtful review of THE TEN-YEAR NAP. I am glad you read passages aloud to The Husband. I worked a lot on making the book reflect the things that I saw out there in the world among women and kids and men… I appreciate your response a good deal.

      All best,
      Meg Wolitzer

      April 1st, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    14. Riley says:

      I reviewed this book too and also really like the excerpt you included with the exchange between Amy and Penny. Great review!

      April 2nd, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    15. Occidental Girl says:

      Hey, cool, author comment!

      It’s weird to me that there is debate and hostility over these choices. After all, isn’t it a good thing to be able to make the best choices for yourself and your family, and not have it dictated by society or other arbitrary means?

      Further, I think it’s weird because it’s only hostility reserved for women. No one quibbles over a man having a career AND children.

      When people have something to prove, that’s when things get ugly. When we’re all living our lives and relaxed, that’s when good things happen. Now, where do you want me to put this soapbox? I’m all done. :)

      April 4th, 2008 at 10:14 am

    16. MelissaS says:

      I just came back to read this post after finishing the book. I found myself drawn in by all the characters.
      Personally, I’m on the fence between continuing in my career and the decision to have another child and become a SAHM.
      I felt that most of the characters in the book ended up happy only after returning to work. Even Karen, who seemed most pleased with her SAHM-hood, sought reassurance of her outside worth by going on repeated job interviews.
      Despite feeling like this at the end, I enjoyed the exploration of the women and appreciate that each woman did come to her own conclusion without rehashing the whole, overdone, SAHM/WM debate.
      Thanks for sharing!

      April 8th, 2008 at 7:07 am

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