Friday, February 18, 2011

The Ten-Year Nap

I just finished reading The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. It’ll be taught in colleges one day. Eminent Authors 450 taught by Professor Trey Abernathy—who will no doubt be a balding man with a bouncey nod, and light in his eyes. Also, this imaginary professor wears Chuck Taylors with his tan suits. But the important detail is that the class will be taught by a man.

I’m in a ten-year nap. I gave up my life.

For them.

That’s what motherhood is. The truncating of a woman’s life for the nourishment of another, beginning at conception and filling and fulfilling the innate function of our breasts with milk of women’s sacrifice. Shouldn’t the book be called The Eighteen-Year Nap? The Eternal Nap? Will I ever “one day…just [wake] up, and there [will be] somewhere that [I] need to be”? as Meg so poignantly states in her last line of this book.

I both heartily agree with and reject the idea behind Wolitzer’s last line in the book. Am I to suppose that my early motherhood years are to be considered a “nap”, when in fact I do very little sleeping and a whole lot of dirty work that a sanitation engineer may wince at. Is the latter part the sentence insinuating that working a paying job or volunteer work or anything that isn’t stay-at-home-y is the awake part of my life? The real living? That staying home with my kids is the “dream” and all else is the part where I’m awake? I’m quick to ask if Meg is a mom.

She is…which then leads me back to tending to agree with the same statement that I’m so infuriated with.

“But now the world […] had taken [the mothers]. He knew that this could happen. One day you just woke up, and there was somewhere you needed to be.”

Is it wrong that I feel myself trying to wake up every day? I smack my cheeks with “good literature”, splash the water of “continuing education” in my face, and jostle myself “meaningful conversation” just to get out of this motherhood “sleep”. This ethereal place where I can have a 20 minute conversation about my kid’s pink eye and spend another 20 on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet free of a marker ink…again.

“Are you being Superman?” I’ll ask my son, “Or Batman?” And meanwhile three more homes in the neighborhood are repossessed and the families left SOL.

“Did you just poop your pants again,” I’ll ask my son. And the next day, a student asks me if I was alive during WWII (I’m not even 30), then I have to scold a kid for derogatorily calling someone a “Jew”.

“Your son can really read,” I’ll say to a fellow mom, “He read ‘pizza’ on my microwave panel.” And meanwhile Egypt is single-handedly starting rebel wild-fires in snafu Middle-East.

And back to the other hand…

My daughter says, “Look , Mom. I read the word, ‘pot’. P-O-T. pot,” And in high schools across the nation, students are reading on a 5th grade level and experimenting with pot—some given to them by their parents. And other parents complain about their kids having too much homework. And everyone blames the teachers and the education system. And I wanna give President Obama a hug for telling parents to turn off the TV already and read a book for Lincoln’s sake.

Motherhood is the most important job of a society. More than soldiers who protect society. More than politicians who lead society. Because…

We raise society. We provide a moral and educational foundation that ought to be firm enough to withstand life’s alterations, tempests, and Time.

But it is a sacrifice. Perhaps allegorical to the sacrifice. After all, we lay down our lives for them. Take an eternal nap for our children. We won’t be waking up because there’s somewhere we need to be. We are already here.


  1. I loved that post. Great stuff Rena.

  2. Wow, another book to add to my read list. I have to admit I know exactly what she means about waking up from a nap, as that is what I am doing right now. Maybe it's not noticed until you go out of your comfort zone, like going back to school, or starting a new profession. All of the sudden I'm competing along with students who HAVEN"T been changing diapers for 10 years. I can't even compete with some of the knowledge they've been acquiring while I was down in the trenches raising my little ones. Does that make them smarter or better? I don't think so. But I do know that feeling of trying to catch up with what I've missed going on in the world while focusing on my children. Focusing on your children is not a bad thing, but being aware of what is going on outside in the world around you and hopefully making a difference outside of your own environment, that is the tricky part. It's easy to focus on one or the other. The trick is for us to figure out how to focus outside of ourselves while not sacrificing our family.

  3. Yes, exactly: We're already here.

    I can't help but think of how some of the most dangerous men in the world (Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden) had "napping" mothers who for some reason or another did not raise or protect their children while in their youth. Becoming a mom to effective contributors of society automatically translates into being an "awake" woman.

    Being a "sleeping" mom seems to lead only to heart-ache and disaster.

  4. island girl - You can see why I have paradoxical feelings about this subject. Definitely read the book.

    Adhis - totally. Wake up, moms. If only to be a better mom now. Not ten years later.

  5. WOW. Wonderful prose and moral.

  6. thanks, esperanza. Congrats on your trip coming up. =)

  7. Here's what Meg Wolitzer said when she read this review. Seriously.

    Meg Wolitzer Says:

    May 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Ah, thanks very much. Very cool and intensely felt review. I am glad the book meant something to you! — All best, Meg



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