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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

September 2013


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month


MOTHERS AND SONS: When adult sons come home to Mum

“Researchers find male killer whales are ‘mummy’s boys’”. This was the headline in a number of newspapers recently, the articles reporting the fascinating findings from a team of British and Canadian scientists studying killer whale populations in the North Pacific.

Mother killer whales have the longest menopause of any non-human species.    Now, the study in the journal Science reports the purpose that menopause serves in these orcas: for females to care for their adult sons and make sure their genes are passed on to future generations. “Females have a really unique life history," said Emma Foster, a marine biologist at Exeter University. “They stop reproducing in their 30s and 40s, but they can live into their 90s.”

Killer whales stick with their mothers their entire lives. Dr. Foster suspects that mothers help sons with foraging or offer protection in encounters with other males. The daughters are much less dependent.

“While it is believed,” says the study’s co-author, Dr. Darren Croft, “that the menopause evolved in humans partly to allow women to focus on providing support for their grandchildren, it seems that female killer whales act as life-long carers for their own offspring, particularly their adult sons.”

More Young Adults are Living with Parents Than in the Past 20 years – especially the adult sons

According to figures  released by the Office for National Statistics, three million men and women aged between 20 and 34 were still living with their parents in 2011, an increase of 20 percent on the number who lived at home in 1997.  Remarkably, one in four men (compared with one in seven women) between the ages of 20 and 34 still live at home.

Some of these “adult kids” who have not left the parental nest say they are living at home because of increasing rents, the credit squeeze, high unemployment, the difficulty of getting on the mortgage ladder, and rising university costs.  But others, who have been dubbed kippers – kids in parent’s pockets, are, say the demographers, staying through choice.

50 Something Males are Coming Home

Though I don’t have official statistics I can report on a new demographic to add to the list of adult children coming home to roost.  These are mid-life males: already secure on the property ladder and gainfully employed. A neighbour of mine tells me about a divorced friend of hers who was living quite happily in a cosy town house and enjoying her freedom, when her eldest son asked if he could stay with her.

To continue to pay the public school fees for his three children, he had to sell one of the two houses the family owned.  The economic downturn had taken its toll on his income. 

It was the London home, leaving him with no place to stay while he was at work during the week.  His mother was delighted at first, but after a while she found she was not enjoying it so much.  He expected dinner on the table when he got home and freshly ironed shirts for work each morning.  She had gotten used to being free to live as she wished.  “Perhaps,” her second son suggested to her after a year, “David should start looking for a pad for himself.”

My son, with a home in Devon and employed, has come to stay with me in London three nights a week, going home on weekends.  It has been a pleasure.
He doesn’t want me to prepare his dinner (he prefers his cooking) and even though I have a cleaner who does his laundry, he would do it himself.  He’s often not home till 9:00pm in the evening and up at 6:30am.  His work is client centred and deadline intensive.

I’ve learned a lot since he’s been with me.  Given that he just wants to chill when he comes home we don’t watch much serious television.  I’ve learned about the latest X- Factor performers, learned to endure the B movies on Channel 5 after ten - those thrillers with Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme. 

And before he dozes off I am brought up to date on what his boys are doing. This is my greatest delight, hearing about the achievements and activities of my young grandsons.
There is a Silver Lining

Most often the articles about parents suffering the adult children focus on the negatives.  But there is much that can be a pleasure and perhaps along the way you’ll gain a whole new outlook on life.

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