Men who just don't want to leave Mum

Lazy, emotionally retarded, 'mummy's boys'... our society is highly critical of men who live with their parents. Nicky Maitlis interviews three who have defied convention
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Peter Hill, 45, a slater and tiler from Peckham, south London, has been living with his parents for 10 years. He split up with his wife in 1984 after 16 years; he has three sons, aged 28, 27 and 26, and a daughter, 24, from another relationship.

It was my mother's idea for me live at home, she loves my company. But I also moved back to look after my parents, because they are extremely vulnerable living in Peckham. After I moved back in, my Mum and I became mates. She partners me at badminton on Saturday nights, although she's 72. My Dad's not unhappy I'm at home, but he's not happy like Mum is.

I give my mother a basic pounds 50 a week rent, and money for food on top. In the evening she makes me a two-course hot meal with fresh veg and homemade pie. I've never really considered moving in with another girl. Shecouldn't compete with my mother, not just in cooking, in everything. Some nights I'll get a takeaway to save Mum cooking.

I always take my girlfriends home to meet my parents; I know my Mum and Dad will be good with them. But they hate me living at home and say, "It's pathetic, living with your mother at your age." But I've lived on my own and brought up a family, I've got nothing to prove. They've never admitted it, but they're jealous.

I've had various girlfriends I could have moved in with and I've split up with one over my living at home. It boiled down to "It's your Mum or me." To be honest, there's no competition; they're never going to love me like my Mum does, and I'm never going to be able to trust them like I trust my Mum.

I stay at my girlfriend's about three nights a week, but I leave at 5.30am in time to come back and have a cup of tea at home before work. My uncle comes down from the flat upstairs and we all have a gossip and a laugh. It sets me up for the day.

My mother will never nag at me. I do things willingly for Mum - jobs around the house - because she'll ask in a nice way. If a girlfriend says, "I've asked you 10 times to ..." my reaction is well, you'll just have to ask me another 10 times, won't you.

I don't feel inhibited living at home. If I came home drunk, Mum would make a joke about it the next day. If I said something I regretted, she'd understand. She's a woman of the world. But I'm never coarse in front of my mother and she's never heard me swear.

If my mates come round, we'll go to my room or sit in the front room and chat with Mum and Dad. My mates love Mum to death. She's kind and thoughtful and as trendy as a great-grandmother can be. She likes Take That.

If I moved out now I'd be betraying my mother, she might only have another 10 years to live. My girlfriend's virtually resigned to the fact I live with my Mum. When my parents die I'd love my own children to move in with me.

Nicholas Lane, 30, a self-employed furniture restorer from Twickenham, has been living with his mother for five years. He and his older brother, Simon, own a flat which they now let to their younger brother, Matthew.

I moved back home with my Mum partly for financial reasons because I've set up my own business as a furniture restorer. I feel guilty about not being unable to give Mum much money and I contribute when I can. I'm indebted to her and try to help around the house to make up for the rent.

Every morning before I go to work, I bring her a newspaper, any post and a cup of tea in bed. I cut the grass and clean the floors and windows. I've wallpapered the sitting room and painted her bedroom ceiling, too. I enjoy Hoovering and do it when it's necessary. I can also sew on buttons, darn socks, wash and iron. Obviously when I had my flat I did all this for myself.

Before my Mum retired last year she was headmistress of a Catholic primary school and she used to come home very tired. If I got in from work first, I'd get some food on. Now the roles are reversed and she does most of the chores. Though if I haven't made dinner for a while she might tactfully say, "Don't get out of practice with the cooking."

My mother is a very independent woman. She brought the three of us up alone and perhaps we're closer because of that. We get on well and have a good laugh. There are no arguments whatsoever.

I feel it's very much Mum's house and I'd ask her first if I wanted to bring a girlfriend back. It would be fine providing she had her own room because I think the idea of sex under my mother's roof is wrong. Mum's never said anything, but it just wouldn't happen, I wouldn't feel comfortable.

Mum's always given me the opportunity to have friends over for dinner. She'll whizz out and join us later for a glass of wine. My friends don't have a problem with me living at home, they just think, isn't he lucky. They know I run my own business and I'm very independent - I was at boarding school for six years - and have a lot of initiative.

My friends always want to meet Mum because they speak to her on the phone and think she sounds warm and compassionate. Sometimes when she answers the phone, they think she's my sister and clients ask if she's my wife. I'd feel embarrassed if they thought I was a mummy's boy, which I'm not, so I tell them she's my secretary.

Mum writes up all the estimates and invoices for my business because I'm dyslexic. We discuss the jobs together, she's like a business partner. She has lots of common sense and she's very practical.

Ideally, in time it would be nice to have my own place. Both Mum and I think it's healthy and good for a young man to be able to fend for himself. I've got all the skills to do that. I hope I'll meet a girl like my mother, then I'd know it would work.

Joseph Coulter, a cabinet-maker, 31, and his wife, Bianca, a headhunter, 32, have been living with Joseph's parents for two and half years in Iver, Buckinghamshire. They originally moved in for three months, before travelling for a year. When they returned, they again lived with Joseph's parents on a temporary basis, but have decided to stay. They are expecting their first child.

I think my parents probably had initial reservations about how a married couple would fit in. They were pleased but also worried about whether we'd be tripping over each other and where we'd put all our gear. Fortunately, it's quite a big house so it could swallow us easily, including my other brother, Julian, who also lives at home.

It was just as much Bianca's idea to move in with my parents. When we lived in our flat in Dulwich, south London, we both found the day-to-day grind relentless, slogging our way back through the traffic at 8.30pm and then having to think about cooking. It was no way to live.

Now the whole organisational side of life is much easier. One person cooks, usually my Dad because he loves it, and the washing-up is shared, along with the shopping. My mother stocks up on the basics so we don't all come back with 10 pints of milk. She does most of the cleaning, too, though we all look after our particular areas. We give her money monthly and we pool all the bills.

Moving back home is not something we've had to do to save money. We could perfectly happily move back into our flat or buy a house. Our standard of living is no different from living on our own, but our quality of life is much better. We have more time and we're generally happier. It's amazing how work problems and all the niggles that are part of a relationship get smoothed out by having other people around, to bounce ideas off. Every evening, we all have a proper sit-down meal round the table, which is a key part of living together and a fundamental part of what it is to be a family. We never shoot off into our own rooms and eat in front of the TV.The family is there to take your spade away and stop you digging yourself into a hole.

Occasionally, people we've met at dinner parties in London have had quite strong reactions to us living at home. They think our family's "very odd" because it's not a problem for us. We all get on very well and there are very few things we can't discuss together. My parents have never adopted middle-aged attitudes. They saw Pulp Fiction and really liked it. When we have our friends over, my parents are there, too. I had a birthday party once, where we all cooked and I made a massive table to seat 24 people. It was like something out of The Godfather.

Photographs: Tony Buckingham/Kalpesh Lathigra.

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