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Home Free: The Myth of the Empty Nest [Paperback]

Marni Jackson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 28 2010 0887626165 978-0887626166 1

From the author of the best-selling The Mother Zone, comes a comic narrative about an over-anxious mother and her twenty-something over-adventurous son.

Home Free is about the last secret lap of parenting: getting through your kids’ twenties and learning how to let them go at the same time. The twentysomethings who invented the generation gap in the nineteen sixties have grown up to become hyperinvolved parents who can’t stop worrying about their adult kids.

Many of the kids are still living in the basement, bussing tables instead of going to business school, and depending on their parents for emotional support. Just when they thought family life was on the wane, parents are back on deck with their children; at the same time many are often coping with their own frail or dying parents.

Is this the new, improved face of family, where kids still depend on their parents for stability, friendship and guidance in an increasingly unforgiving world? Or has this era of over-invested parents, living vicariously through the achievements of their children, bred dependency in the new generation?

Home Free is an intimate, candid, reflective and comic memoir that focuses on this new and undefined stage of family life: the challenges of helping our kids navigate their twenties -- while learning how to let go of them at the same time.

Product Details

Product Description

Quill & Quire

There was a time, not so very long ago, when the idea of a young adult moving back in with his or her parents after leaving home to pursue an education, adventure, or gainful employment would have been viewed as an aberration. These days, however, the tendency for twentysomethings to return to the fold while they “figure things out” is increasing.

Cashing in on current interest in the so-called “echo boom” generation is card-carrying member Iain Reid, who at 26 moved back in with his parents while working part-time at a low-paying, seasonal job for the CBC in Ottawa. What was supposed to be a short summer sojourn metamorphosed into a year of napping on the couch, drinking his dad’s beer, and having his mom do his laundry.

Reid is a natural storyteller, and One Bird’s Choice is full of charming anecdotes and vividly described characters. But there is little substance here. Despite the fact that Reid spends most of his time unemployed, dishevelled, and bored, he actually reveals very little about his motivations for staying put. Is he depressed? Has he made the wrong career choice? Is he just a slacker?

Reid acknowledges a certain degree of shame in his situation, but the impression one gets is that he stays because he can. Mom and Dad (we never learn their names) welcome him with open arms and no expectations. He eats their food, sleeps in his old room, and aside from helping with a few chores, contributes almost nothing. It’s not so much that he wants to take advantage of his parents, it’s just that they make it so damned easy.

Mom and Dad are the best part of the book, by far. Their banter and idiosyncrasies provide pure entertainment, though they do come across as a bit daft at times. Reid owes them a world of gratitude, and a year’s worth of back rent.

In a related vein, respected journalist Marni Jackson is a hippie-turned-hipster mom navigating the uncertain waters involved in allowing her son, Casey, to chart his own course to adulthood in her follow-up to 1992’s much-lauded The Mother Zone. That book was a frank and poignant account of motherhood during her son’s first eight years. Home Free picks up the thread almost a decade later. Casey is a university student in Montreal, but Jackson is still attempting to choreograph the young man’s complete exit from under his mother’s wing.

Unlike Reid, Casey never returns home for an extended period of time. He travels, drops out of school, re-enrols, and temporarily floats home to Toronto or the cottage for family vacations. Still, the apron strings stretch pretty far, and what Jackson explores is the notion that maybe kids, hers included, aren’t entirely at fault for their ennui: “We [boomer parents] read articles about the listlessness of the ‘boomerang generation,’ their entitlement and lack of direction. We don’t like to consider how our overparenting may have contributed to this.”

Though Home Free is built around her own experiences, Jackson’s use of statistics and academic references lends weight to her idea that the boomers have set their children up, if not to fail, then certainly to be on a slower course to adulthood than any generation before. Indeed, for every foolhardy adventure Casey strikes out on, Jackson has a story (albeit a richly described and archly witty one) of her own such adventure that trumps it. The difference being, as she reiterates several times, the world has changed since then. When Jackson was her son’s age, a person could be a flake for a few years in her twenties and still land on her feet. A young man could backpack through Europe without his parents following his every move on Twitter or Facebook, so it was easier to establish independence.

Jackson compares and contrasts generations throughout the book – not only her own and her son’s, but also that of her parents. The result is a thoughtful and thought-provoking work that, despite occasionally feeling like a series of magazine features that have been stitched together, is sure to enjoy the same positive reception as her first parenting memoir.


...lively and thoughful...

A meaty read from the sandwich generation...Let's keep Jackson as our final generational treasure. With so many of the cultural giants we grew up with now reduced to ring tones and car ads, we need all the genuine treasures we can muster.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom, Humour and Stunning Writing Oct. 10 2010
I defy anyone to start and this book and not finish it. In all the reviews I've read, nobody mentions just how fine the writing is, sentence by sentence, thought by thought. I'm reading it again for the language alone, but I strongly recommend it for the insights. The title and subtitle don't really do it justice. This book is about way more than being a parent. It's about being alive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From a parent of a twenty something Dec 24 2010
This is a wonderful book. It's witty, well written, personal, and will make you smile and shake your head in agreement with her words. For any woman who is raising teenage children, this is the book to make you feel that you are not alone. Jackson addresses the changes in lifestyles of our twenty something children, reassures us when our children don't follow the path that has, since now, worked. She writes "I knew how useless a B.A in liberal arts had become. But the parent part of my brain had swollen to such unseemly proportions that I still believed university was the last good daycare, the safest channel to a secure future in our unravelling, unforgiving world." When I read this I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn't alone and yes, we need to trust that they will find their way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mirror, mirror on the wall Dec 12 2010
It was like looking in a mirror part of the time while reading this book. It helped me see my relationship with my "adult" children differently, to realize the things I was unconsciously doing that were getting in the way of their own growth. While the stories of herself at a similar age were interesting and sometimes amusing,I occasionally found them self-indulgent. That said, I enjoyed the book and it eased my mind over the delayed independence of my children.
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