You do the cooking, mummy, I'll pay no rent

More and more young men think there's no place like home
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The Independent Online
JUST imagine, men. You get home after a hard day at the office and look at the dishes piled up in the sink. There is a hundredweight of old newspapers littering the floor. As you flop down to watch Newsnight with your takeaway pizza, putting off the chores yet again, you remember you have not got a clean shirt, let alone one that is ironed to wear the next day.

But it needn't be that way. You could be going back to a warm, clean home, eat a well-cooked supper, go out on the town, come back with your girlfriend, and still have a hot breakfast served - to both of you - in the morning. Like living in a hotel, but a whole lot cheaper. It's called living at home with mum. And increasingly it's what millions of young men do.

Some good boys have always lingered at home, among them Charles Saatchi and Geoffrey Boycott. But a new report, by advertising agency Mellors Reay, claims that nowadays one in nine men between the ages of 30 and 34 are living with their parents, and this is well up on previous surveys. A recent cartoon in a men's magazine showed a son tucking into his dinner and saying to his parents waiting on him: "I shall really miss you when I send you off to a home".

These thirtysomethings are Thatcher's children. They have witnessed, if not personally experienced, the boom and bust economy. Jobs are no longer for life, and who knows what's around the employment corner. No doubt it makes sense not to over-extend yourself with a mortgage and while the chance lasts save as much as possible. If these practical, calculating men eventually do get around to acquiring property, it will be several rungs up.

Extended families are common in many non-European societies but this is not an ethnic phenomenon. Indeed, in the Asian community the trend is for young men to move out of the family home at the earliest opportunity, a subject of much concern among the older generation, who bemoan the loosening of cultural ties.

The young men of the Mellors Reay survey do not appear to have any such problems. Middle-class mums are liberal minded. That means tolerance of the man-about-town lifestyle: girlfriends get to stay the night without embarrassment. Conveniently, mum's being there becomes a ready excuse - sorry, can't make a living-in commitment, darling.

Yet we don't know much about how mum (or dad) really feel. Do the fathers and mothers enjoy having the company of their ageing sons? Or do they feel there has simply been no respite throughout their life from the daily cycle of cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing ? And the girlfriends, how long can they put up with men who may flounce off back to mother after every row? If they did cohabit, would the men survive without motherly indulgence?

Yet the post-modern "mummy's boy" is no longer a spotty wimp. The new stay-at -homes have money, more than their peers, to spend on designer clothes, fast cars, trendy restaurants and bars. The advertisers rub their hands - growth in the number of stay-at-homes has coincided with increased spending on male perfumes, skin-care, toning and assorted hair gels. Spending on mens' toiletries has risen from pounds 370m a year from 1991 to around pounds 550m this year. In Cool Britannia, it seems, men are soaking themselves in Calvin Klein, but leaving it for mum to put the top back on afterwards.