The Six-Year Nap

This morning I got a call from the principal of June’s school informing me that June had fallen off the monkey bars at recess, gotten the wind knocked out of her and bruised her back. The principal seemed to want me to bring her home, even though she didn’t come out and say it in so many words. Eventually, she put June on the phone and when I asked her how she was, the first word out of her mouth was “Fine.” It didn’t really seem to me like she needed to come home. I think the principal was nervous because the nurse was not at school and they had no one with any medical training there to examine June, also nowhere to put her because the health center was closed. June had been hanging out in the principal’s office with a friend, the girl who led her inside when she fell. Finally we decided June would go to lunch and then we’d assess how she was after that.

On the one hand, I felt a little guilty for not immediately saying of course I’d come get her. I had no pressing work, no work at all in fact because Sara’s needed to cut back on my hours for financial reasons and the editing job I was going to do for another client fell through and I haven’t been working more than several hours a week for the past few weeks. One of the benefits of me being home should be my availability for the kids, for things expected or unexpected. I have the time. I was even disappointed last week when Noah turned down my offer to bake his traditional half-birthday cupcakes instead of buying them at a bakery as we usually do. (He had his heart set on Cake Love so that’s what he got.)

But on the other hand, June did sound fine on the phone, I know she bounces back quickly from injuries and if I came to get her, she’d have to walk home, a twenty-minute walk, which could be harder on a sore back than staying at school.

Just to be safe, I called the school back about twenty minutes after the end of the kindergarten lunch period to get an update on her. The nurse was in the building by that point and she went to June’s class to check on her and ask if she wanted to come home and June said no, she wanted to stay at school. So she stayed and I went on with my day. I read a couple chapters in the book I’m reading for my book club (Daniel Martin, straightened up the house a little, did laundry, exercised, raked some leaves, the sort of things I do when left to my own devices.

Some time last winter I read Meg Wollitzer’s novel, The Ten-Year Nap. It’s about several upper class women, all stay-at-home moms, three out of four with ten-year old sons at the same elite private boys’ school in New York, all thinking about re-entering the work force. You can see why such a book might appeal. I have a ten-year-old son, it’s been six years since I worked full time, and most of that time I have been wondering if and when I should resume working, not to mention what kind of work I ought to do. And while our lives are not nearly as upper crust as those of the characters in the book, it isn’t strictly speaking an economic necessity for our family for me to work. We could use the money, certainly, as Noah gets older and college looms, and as we’ve been embarking on a lot of long-delayed home improvement projects (we got a new fence, a new roof, repairs done to the eaves of the house and a paint job for the trim of the house all in the past six months and that’s just the start of the list of things we could do). But we can keep the roof over our heads and food on the table without my income, have been doing so in fact for quite some time, so I do have some of the same luxury of indecision that the characters have.

I resisted reading the book for a long time, though. I was quite put off by the title for one thing. The Ten-Year Nap? Really? I thought. Staying at home with kids didn’t seem like a multi-year nap so much as something that would leave one in need of a multi-year nap in my experience. But the moms in the book are for the most part years beyond the parenting-intensive infant/toddler/preschool years from which I have just emerged.
As someone who has dithered with the question of work for years, I ended up finding myself alternately empathizing with the characters (one of whom is, like me, an academic whose career failed to launch) and getting impatient with them. Just decide, I wanted to tell them. Give me a blueprint. They didn’t really. Oh they all made decisions eventually, different ones, of course; I expected the book the split the difference here. But the section of the book where they are paralyzed with malaise is quite long in comparison to the one in which those who end up working find their work. I would have liked more inspirational detail about that process.

I want to work more, so I’ve been putting out tentative feelers. Last week I applied for a half-dozen short-term freelance writing, editing, proofreading and translating jobs I saw advertised on a web site for freelance writers. I talked to a friend who works for an organization that promotes public charter schools about writing grants for schools. (I used to be a grant writer for a non-profit for a few years in my mid-twenties.) I browsed the shelf of books about job searches at the public library the last time I was there to return books, though I didn’t find anything I wanted to bring home. None of this has resulted in any concrete results so far, but I hope I’m moving from the part of my story where I bore myself and other people with my irresolution, to the part where I wake up from the nap, get out of bed and get on with things.