“You stayed around your children as long as you could, inhaling the ambient gold shavings of their childhood, and at the last minute you tried to see them off into life and hoped that the little piece of time you’d given them was enough to prevent them from one day feeling lonely and afraid and hopeless. You wouldn’t know the outcome for a long time.”
Meg Wolitzer, The Ten-Year Nap
While looking for a vacation reading list, I came across this novel from Meg Wolitzer. The synopsis was quite intriguing: it tells of an interwoven story of the lives of four American women, once high-powered career professionals, who took a decade long hiatus to be full-time wives and stay at home moms. Very relatable, so I grabbed myself a copy.
At first I thought that the book was too long. A lot of words were spent trying to describe every minute, every apparently boring thought of a has-been working mom. So I put it down after ten pages and thought I’d read it again someday, when I could muster enough patience to find it interesting again.
Someday came this month, when I remembered having bought the book and not being able to finish it. This time though, I found new perspective– what was once too observant was now an accurate depiction into the harsh realities of mothers-who-used-to-work. The storytailing flew by quickly… Of anecdotes and adventures that sometimes became too relatable for comfort.
In America, most career women who get married and have children rarely climb up the corporate ladder. Most are resigned to make the sacrifice of choosing to be with the kids instead of being in the office. No day care or extended relatives can see to the children, so the burden lies heavily on these women. But they only realize this up to that crossroad of their lives, and I wonder if knowing this beforehand might affect their choice.
In Asia, family ties are kept even after the children are married, so child rearing can be shared among grandparents, aunts and uncles. I myself am lucky to have these family members, on both sides, to willingly share their time with us. Both my husband and I can keep our day jobs while the Lolas take care of our daughter. In return we help to support the whole household financially.
The novel chronicled different facets of the women’s lives. Some were changed after the “ten-year” nap while some lives stayed on the same course. Some went back to their desk jobs, while others found full-time volunteer work that, albeit different from what their careers were initially like, the fact is… something was different. And isn’t that what we’re all battling against? The stagnation of the human spirit from a decade long routine? The absence of passion and lost meaning?
So whether it be ten-, twenty-, or fifty-year naps… whether we decide to go back to the corporate hub or back to the kitchen… Lest we become bored or bitter with our choices, we must never forget that in the end, we are all mothers. And though motherhood sacrifices change us for good, we must remember that we are individuals too, filled with passions and dreams that shouldn’t be forgotten just because we were called into this vocation. Sometimes, that makes all the difference.