Sunday, April 09, 2006

Increasing Numbers of 'Mama's Boys' are Choosing to Live with Their Parents

They're the increasing numbers of older male children opting to continue living at home with their parents.

Generally aged from early 20s to the mid-30s, the "adulescents" are staying longer than ever before in the parental home, with many showing no signs of moving out on their own or of making a commitment to a partner. Others moved back home after a period of living away or a failed relationship.

And it's not just young men -- although in the western world young women living at home are the minority.

Surveys show that 41% of Canadian young adults 20-29 lived with their parents in 2001, a jump of 27% since 1981. The number of men between 30 and 34 living at home has increased by 20%.

It's even higher in Toronto where 54% of young adults live with their parents.

In Italy, it's a way of life. A new study found 82% of men between 19 and 30 still live with their parents, whereas in Japan 60% of single men and 80% of single women 20-34 now live with their parents.

But many mid-life parents don't need to know the exact statistics. They're living the scenario daily.

Just when they expected to be "empty nesters," enjoying a life of freedom and privacy at this time of life, many are still nurturing a grown child.

It's become such a common trend that it's now mainstream comedy reflected in movies, on television and even in commercials.

The current television commercials for cheese show an elderly couple desperately trying to get rid of their older live-at-home son. They fail because he loves home cooking and they're still "cooking with cheese."

It's also the basic theme of the new romantic comedy movie Failure To Launch starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. The story features a 30-something son who refuses to leave his comfortable home. In desperation, his parents hire an attractive woman (Parker) to lure him away. Needless to say, the plan doesn't quite work out that way.

It's a trend causing concern to economists who say it's one of the factors contributing to the lowered birthrates in western and eastern countries as young people delay, or avoid, marriage.

Other reasons cited for staying at home longer are the limited availability of affordable housing; financial concerns such as high student loans, higher education expectations and a lack of job opportunities.

Frank Spadone, 35, a Toronto-based, Italian professional comedian/actor, doesn't have any of these concerns but is still living at home. For most Italian guys, he says it's a question of culture.

"Italian families, especially our mothers, want us to stay at home as long as possible," he says, "They love having us around and looking after us and it's really important to them we save money so we can buy our own home someday."

He points out Italian people dislike renting -- "don't make other people rich" is a favourite saying -- and admits he doesn't pay anything to his parents. But as he travels constantly in his business and is away a lot, doesn't feel he's too demanding.

But when it comes to having a social life, Spadone says being at home in your mid-30s can hamper it.

"Some women wonder what's wrong with you if you're still living at home when you're older, and when you do meet someone you tend to spend a lot of time out, which can be expensive."

But then he laughs and says he can always bring a girl back to the house for dinner as his mother really enjoys this. He does, however, run the risk she might not like his choice stating "she doesn't hold back if she doesn't like someone!"

Is he ever going to leave? And if he does, is he looking for someone to replace his adoring mother?

Spadone laughs again and says since he thinks he's recently found The One, it may be "on the books" for him to leave. He says that although many Italian men might be looking for someone to take over where their mother left off, he isn't one of them.

"But, hey," he jokes, "after we're married, we can always do up the basement and live there."

"Just joking!," he says in response to my astonished reaction, but adds plenty of Italian couples do just that. For them, leaving permanently just isn't an option.


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