March 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Family Chores—and The Simple Life

Chris Hunter, 33, Sauk Centre, Minn.

WHY HE’S AT HOME: A high school English teacher who moved back after finishing graduate school four years ago, Hunter loves the country life—hunting, fishing, hiking and bird-watching on his folks’ 40-acre-property. “I wake up in the morning and watch the dawn light tickle the trees,” says Hunter. “My heart is here.”

PLANS TO MOVE OUT: None. Paying $400 a month rent, he plans to use his savings to buy the family home someday. And he helps out his parents, Mary, 69, and George, 82, with lawn mowing, roofing and other chores. “Sometimes it’s nice to have him here,” Mary says.

BIGGEST DRAWBACK: Having to call home if he’s running late. “It’s Mom’s and Dad’s house, so it’s their rules,” he says. “But there’s a little place in the back of my mind that says, ‘For Pete’s sake, I’m 33.'”

ROMANTIC STATUS: Single—and that’s no surprise to Hunter’s buddies. “He definitely isn’t doing himself any favors,” says Josh Maiolo, 35, a college friend who has his own condo. “You may have every valid reason in the world [to live at home], but it really cools things off right then and there.”

Three’s a Crowd

RUDY CHAVARRIA JR., 39, Walnut, Calif.

WHY HE’S AT HOME: After his parents’ “devastating” split eight years ago, Chavarria says he moved back in with mom Sally, 61, to offer support and help with chores. “It’s a blessing,” she says.

PET PEEVES: Sally likes to chat while Chavarria does bench presses in the garage: “I’ll say, ‘Don’t you realize I can drop this?'” Running a marketing business from home, Chavarria was in the middle of a conference call when his mom marched into his office and loudly said, “Junior, don’t forget to take the trash out,” he recalls. “I tried to hit the mute button but it was too late.” Another challenge: Helping Mom navigate the DVD player. “I’ve shown her how to use it at least 20 times,” he says. “But then she puts in the behind-the-scenes disc and says, ‘Why isn’t it working?'”

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: To celebrate five years together, Chavarria planned to take girlfriend Allison Martinez, 26, to dinner and a movie. To be polite, he invited Mom along. “I expected her to say, ‘No, it’s your anniversary. Go alone.'” Instead she said, “Sure, I’ll go. I haven’t been to the movies for a long time.” Mom and girlfriend sat next to each other and had a ball, talking about crocheting and other hobbies. “I was the outsider,” Chavarria says.

FUTURE PLANS: “I have to get out of here,” Chavarria says. “Even I think it’s ridiculous I’ve been here so long.”

Fresh Sheets and Breakfast in Bed

PAUL ALFONSO, 31, West Hartford, Conn.

WHY HE’S AT HOME: His Cuban culture plays a role. “You open your arms and your house to your children,” says Alfonso’s grandmother Hilda Gandara, 77. But Alfonso, who moved back from Boston last year after a breakup and now works for an insurance company, is quick to praise the benefits of living rent-free in an eight-bedroom, 6,000-sq.-ft. Tudor mansion where the housekeeper changes his sheets and serves him breakfast in bed. “Sometimes,” he says, “it’s just nice to be kind of a kid.”

MEET THE PARENTS: Alfonso lives with mom Marilda (far left), 56, and her fiancé, Scott O’Keefe, 56. Dad Ramon Alfonso, 56, who lives in Miami, says Paul should move out—”But with that deal, why would anybody leave?” Marilda, president of the Aetna Foundation, likes having her son around, but adds, “Sometimes I wonder, ‘Will he move out?'”

PICKUP LINES: Alfonso, currently dating Kristen Ralph, 22, says he meets women through friends. “I don’t go to bars,” he says. “What would I say? ‘Your place or my mom’s’?”

MICHAEL HOYT, 30, New Lenox, Ill.

WHY HE’S AT HOME: After tallying his $35,000 tuition costs at Chicago’s DePaul University, where he’s getting a bachelor’s in education, Hoyt—who also teaches high school Spanish—moved back home 18 months ago. “It’s a smart financial move,” he says.

WHAT A WOMAN CAN EXPECT: Eggs and bacon in the morning. “You know who’s cooking? Mom and Dad,” Hoyt tells a girlfriend before she stays the night (he’s dated four women since returning home). Mom Barbara brings fresh towels—and politely but firmly suggests Hoyt’s guests sleep in a separate bedroom. Proper attire is a must: “No Victoria’s Secret apparel,” Hoyt says. “Probably just flannel.”

THE GIRLFRIEND THOUGHT… “It was kind of awkward,” says Stacey Kleinrichert, 32, who dated Hoyt for nine months. “You don’t want to tell your girlfriends, ‘My boyfriend lives with his parents.'” And though they broke up for other reasons, Kleinrichert adds, “I kept thinking, ‘I’m not with a man; I’m with a high school boy.'”

TIME TO MOVE OUT? Hoyt, who graduates in June, says he’s been looking at houses and thinks he might be ready to move on. But he’s grown used to Mom leaving leftovers in the fridge, sorting his mail and buying shirts for him. And Barbara, 56, says there’s no rush: “When each of our children are ready to fly, that’s fine.”

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