Being a parent isn’t easy, and being a young parent on Long Island has an added challenge — when Newsday interviewed 10 millennial families (parents ages 20 to 36), almost all of them had the same response to the question: “What’s the hardest thing about raising a family on Long Island?” Their answer: The cost.
But when it comes to why it’s worth it to stay, their answers were many: They grew up here. Their extended families are here. They love the proximity to the beach and to the city. The education is first-rate.
Here are the stories of 10 millennial families and how they are making family life on Long Island work for them.
Laura Barth and Jim Barth, both 33
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Laura is a stay-at-home mother and Jim is an air-traffic controller. They both graduated from Northport High School in 2001 but didn’t start dating until years later when they bumped into each other in Northport.
MEET THE KIDS Natalie, 6; James, 4; and Patrick, 1
WHERE THEY LIVE East Northport
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY They both grew up in East Northport. They lived in Virginia for several years. “We came back for family. Everybody was up here.” Now they live on the same block as Laura’s parents.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased their home for $435,000 in 2010.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Laura stays home.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY They saved money while living in Virginia — “we were both working our tails off,” says Laura, who has a master’s degree in social work. And then they lived with Laura’s parents for nine months while Jim worked two jobs. Now, they budget their expenses. “We’re kind of very mindful of what we spend where,” she says. They don’t take extravagant vacations — they’ll go to Pennsylvania once a year. “We drove to Disney a couple of years ago,” Laura says. And she tries to contribute to the finances when she can. “I’m always looking online for ways to make money at home,” Laura says.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES Laura is an administrator for the Huntington Moms on a Budget Facebook page.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? Sometimes Laura thinks they should have stayed in Virginia. “Our money doesn’t go as far here as it would in other parts of the United States,” Laura says. “We say often if we weren’t on Long Island we’d probably have a fourth [child].” But overall, she’s content with their choice, she says. “We’re very happy and blessed that we can be here.”
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “It’s really neat to actually raise our kids where we grew up,” Laura says.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND The cost.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK Local Facebook pages that let parents buy items inexpensively from other parents who don’t need them anymore. She’s purchased a slide for the kids, for instance.
Lauren Ribera, 34, and Mitchell Ribera, 35
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Lauren is an accountant, Mitchell is a vice president of consulting for an insurance firm. They met through eHarmony.
MEET THE KIDS Twins Natalie and Julia, 5, and sons James, 3 and Jack, 6 months
WHERE THEY LIVE Oceanside
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY Lauren has family members in the area and Mitchell wanted a reasonable commute to Manhattan. “I can just walk to the train station,” Michell says.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased a three-bedroom home in 2011 for $410,000 and added a fourth bedroom in the walk-up attic.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE A babysitter comes to the house.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY Mitchell moved home with his parents on Long Island for two years after college and used his earnings to pay off about $40,000 of student loans. “We weren’t burdened with that like a lot of our peers are,” he says. They are able to share one used car they have paid off. Now they put the money they would have used for a car payment into 529 college savings accounts for the kids.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES “Through activities at school,” Lauren says.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? Absolutely, Lauren says. “It’s a frequent conversation we come back to,” she says. “It’s just so expensive. Preschool, child care, dance lessons. It’s really our family that keeps us here.”
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND The activities for the kids. Parks, playgrounds, the beach.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The cost of living on Long Island,” Mitchell says.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK The Oceanside Moms Facebook page, Lauren says. She turns to it for recommendations for plumbers, handymen, pediatricians, questions about school.
Rachel Lavoie, 33, and Nicole Lavoie, 34
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Rachel is a social worker and Nicole is a revenue manager at a hospital. They met through an online dating service. “I hate to say it, but OKCupid,” Rachel says. “I wish we had a cute story. But that’s millennial life.”
MEET THE KID Ellis, who will be 2 later this month. They’ll try to have one more child. “It’s a process for us. We have to save and go to doctors,” Rachel says.
WHERE THEY LIVE Floral Park
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY “It’s where my wife grew up,” Rachel says, and her extended family still lives in the community. Rachel says she likes the location — walking distance to Jericho Turnpike shopping — because she was living in Manhattan before and was used to not having to always depend on a car.
RENT OR OWN? Own. The couple originally didn’t think they could afford to buy a house in Floral Park. But a real estate agent found their three-bedroom Colonial and they grabbed it, Rachel says. They paid $372,000 in 2012.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Their daughter goes to a local day care center.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY Nicole had already been saving for a house when she and Rachel met. “We just kept piling toward that,” Rachel says.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES “Through our synagogue. We go to Tot Shabbat services,” Rachel says, referring to Friday night worship services geared to young families. Rachel also joined Babywearing International’s Long Island Chapter.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? Sometimes Rachel, who grew up in South Carolina, fantasizes about it, especially when the family visits Rachel’s parents, who still live there. But they won’t do it, Rachel says. “We both have good jobs up here,” she says. And she thinks that Ellis will have an easier time growing up with two moms in New York. “It’s easier to be Jewish and queer here than it is down there,” Rachel says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “I love how close we are to the city, that we can just spend the day doing that,” Rachel says. And yet they also have a community feeling in Floral Park.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “Definitely the cost,” Rachel says. “The taxes on our house here absolutely blow my mind.” She says her parents pay $600 a year in real estate taxes on their home in South Carolina.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK Using social media networking to find like-minded parents. Once she and Nicole had a child, their focus shifted and they were interested in family activities. They joined the Long Island chapter of Hike It Baby, and they go on organized hikes through the group. That’s how they discovered Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson, for instance.
Carissa Berliner, 34
MEET THE MILLENNIAL Berliner is a single mom and a second-grade teacher.
MEET THE KID Liliana, 3
WHERE THEY LIVE Coram
WHY SHE CHOSE HER COMMUNITY “It’s quiet, it’s clean,” Berliner says. “It’s also the same town my cousin had moved to.”
RENT OR OWN? She purchased a town house in 2016 for $235,000.
HOW SHE HANDLES CHILD CARE She teaches at a school in Long Island City, Queens, so she takes Liliana with her and drops her at a day care center near her school.
HOW SHE SAVES MONEY By living in Coram. “Out here, it was more affordable,” she says. “What I wanted, and what I wanted to pay for it, was out here.”
HOW SHE CONNECTS WITH OTHER FAMILIES “I really haven’t yet out here because I still have my circle of teacher friends [in Queens],” she says. She expects that once Liliana starts school, she’ll meet more parents through her daughter.
HAS SHE CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND Not yet — she just got here.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “Even though we have to drive to things, there are more family things to do,” she says. She recently discovered the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City and the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “My commute,” Berliner says. It takes her two hours each way during rush hour.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK Local parenting websites that feature things to do with families.
Nida Mirza, 31, and Haroon Bhatti, 32
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Bhatti is an assistant director for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. in Manhattan and Mirza is a stay-at-home mother who home-schools their older daughter. They met at Thomas Edison High School in Jamaica, Queens.
MEET THE KIDS Ammara, 6, and Inayah, 18 months
WHERE THEY LIVE Westbury
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY They came from Queens. “There’s more land here. There’s more room here,” says Mirza. They wanted a backyard where their kids could play. They say the houses were affordable, and the commute was manageable for Bhatti.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased a four-bedroom fixer-upper in a short sale for the low $300,000s at the end of 2013.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Mirza is home.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY “We’re DIYers,” Mirza says of renovations they’ve been making to their home. “My husband is doing everything himself.”
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES “Our local library is always putting things together,” Mirza says.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? No. “My parents are in Queens, so we wanted to stay in Nassau,” Mirza says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND The things to do — Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, Cantiague Park in Hicksville. Mirza also says her neighbors are very friendly.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The taxes,” Mirza says. Other than that, “I don’t really find it difficult,” Mirza says.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK Museum Row, with the Long Island Children’s Museum and The Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center, is five minutes from their house, which is a great educational plus for Mirza as she’s home-schooling Ammara. “She’s thriving in a home schooling environment,” Mizra says of her daughter.
Louisa Lovaglio, 26, and Steven Lovaglio, 28
MEET THE MILLENIALS Lousia works part-time at home on weekdays as an insurance agent and as a makeup artist on weekends. Steven is a civil engineer. They met as lifeguards at Plandome Country Club when Louisa was in high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead and Steven was at Chaminade High School in Mineola. They stayed together while Louisa attended Adelphi University in Garden City and Steven attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
MEET THE KID Dean, 10 months. The Lovaglios plan on having more. “If it was up to my husband, he’d say five. But I’m good with three,” Louisa says.
WHERE THEY LIVE Port Washington
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY Louisa grew up in Port Washington. “I like the area — it’s so beautiful in the summer and spring. I’ve just always been happy here, so I made my husband come here,” Louisa says.
RENT OR OWN? They rent a two-bedroom apartment in a house for $1,800 a month. They hope to buy a home in the next two to three years, Louisa says. Ideally they’ll buy in Port Washington, but if it’s too expensive, they’ll look in other communities on the water. “So if it’s not here, maybe Northport,” Louisa says.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Louisa primarily watches Dean.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY “We try to put away most of my earnings and live on my husband’s salary,” Louisa says.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES “I take my son to activity classes at Kidville in Roslyn and Bach to Rock in Port Washington,” Louisa says. “I talk to other parents.”
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? “Both our families are in New York. I would really miss them, so I don’t know if I could actually go through with it,” Louisa says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “There are tight-knit communities; the schools are great, they are ranked nationally,” Louisa says.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The expenses. I know they are going to want to do sports and activities,” she says of Dean and her future children. And then there’s the challenge of saving for college, she says.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK Local Facebook parenting pages. “It’s great when you’re looking for advice, who’s trustworthy,” Louisa says. She found an entertainer for her son’s first birthday party through recommendations from other parents on the page, she says.
Jennifer Cortes, 28, and Dennis Solares, 27
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Cortes is a secretary in the Brentwood School District, and Solares is a maintenance worker for the Central Islip Fire Department. They met when both worked at Home Depot.
MEET THE KIDS Tayshahn, 7; Jordan, 5; and Sophia, 1
WHERE THEY LIVE Central Islip
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY Solares is a volunteer firefighter with the Central Islip Fire Department, and Cortes is a volunteer EMT with the Central Islip Ambulance Corps, so they wanted to stay in the community.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased a three-bedroom town house in February for $220,000.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Cortes’ parents relocated to Long Island from Puerto Rico to help care for Sophia.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY They saved for their town house by living with Solares’ mother in her five-bedroom Central Islip home for six years. Before that they lived paycheck to paycheck, Cortes says. “With kids, you really can’t save. There’s no way to save the big amount you need for a home,” she says.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES It’s challenging to find time to connect, Cortes says. “We have such a busy life,” she says. But they do participate in parenting Facebook pages and meet other parents through their children’s school and playdates.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? “It was a thought because of the economy,” Cortes says. But they didn’t want to leave Solares’ mom, she says. “My husband is an only child of a single mother,” she says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “You can get that small-town feeling or you can get that big city feeling,” Cortes says.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The cost of living,” Cortes says.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK “We actually just discovered the Long Island Children’s Museum,” she says.
Felicia Fleitman, 33, and Jacob Fleitman, 34
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Felicia runs her own consulting company out of LaunchPad in Westbury, and Jacob has his own law practice in Deer Park. They met as college students at SUNY Albany.
MEET THE KIDS Mackenzie, 3, and Skyla, 1
WHERE THEY LIVE Plainview
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY They had been living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and never thought they’d move back to Long Island, where they both grew up, she in Bellmore and he in Commack. “I totally thought we could live in our one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan because babies are small,” Felicia says. “I thought my husband could run his law practice from the corner of our living room.” That didn’t work out so well, Felicia says. Felicia’s mom made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: “Move within 15 minutes of me and I will help you with your daughter.” They chose Plainview because it has great schools, let them purchase a home within their budget, and was close to the Hicksville train line (important because Felicia was still commuting to Manhattan at the time).
RENT OR OWN? They moved into their home in September 2014; they paid $417,000 for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch with a full basement.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Both girls go to the Mid-Island Y JCC, and Felicia’s mom also helps. Jacob’s parents will do overnight baby-sitting on the weekend so Felicia and Jacob can have a date night.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY “We’re not saving money,” she says. “The mortgage isn’t even what kills you. It’s the taxes. My taxes are almost $1,000 a month. We have two car payments. Day care is astronomical. We pay $25,000 a year for day care. It makes it very, very, very challenging.”
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES “The easiest way is through day care,” Felicia says. One of the parents at the JCC made a Facebook group for the parents, and organizes moms’ nights out and dads’ outings. “I think that’s pretty special,” Felicia says.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? No. They love the friends they’ve made through the JCC. “That community is fantastic,” Felicia says. “These kids are all going to grow up together.” And she and her husband are both building their businesses here.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “I didn’t expect to love being around family as much as I do,” she says.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “How much it costs,” Felicia says. She also doesn’t like the congestion. “It’s really difficult to get around. It’s really difficult to get off Long Island.”
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK When the Fleitmans want their girls to nap, they’ll take a drive along the ocean on Ocean Parkway, maybe from Robert Moses west. “It’s a wonderful, straight drive. There aren’t a lot of stoplights. The drive is really pretty,” she says. Of course, that doesn’t work as well in the summer, Felicia says, when there are crowds. They’re also fans of season passes to locations such as White Post Farms and Adventureland.
Rachele Robeants, 27, and Stanley Robeants, 28
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Both work full time; Rachele is a bodily injury examiner for an insurance company, and Stanley is an auto mechanic. They grew up in North Babylon and met in high school.
MEET THE KIDS Stanley Jr., 2, and Niko, 10 months
WHERE THEY LIVE Ronkonkoma
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY “We were looking for a good school district and most affordability taxwise,” Rachele says. “We were [deciding] between Ronkonkoma and Babylon.” Ronkonkoma won out because they were able to get a bigger backyard for their boys, Rachele says.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased a high ranch for $305,000 in September 2016.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Stanley’s parents live with them on the ground level. “My in-laws are retired. They watch the kids for us while we’re working,” she says.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY They lived with Stanley’s parents in Babylon before purchasing their home, which helped them save for a down payment. They also chose to have a small-scale wedding in 2014 — it cost them $5,000 to have their post-church party in an American Legion Hall. They made the centerpieces themselves, Rachele chose a dress that cost less than $1,000 at David’s Bridal, and a family friend acted as DJ. They were able to save all their wedding gifts. “I don’t regret it at all,” Rachele says of her cost-efficient wedding. “We were able to get a home, which is hard for people our age.”
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES Facebook parenting groups
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? “We were going to go to Virginia Beach — I was able to transfer,” Rachele says. But when push comes to shove, Rachele says, they don’t want to be away from their extended family on Long Island. “We would have been removed from everyone, and our kids wouldn’t have had that life,” she says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “I think the change of seasons is great. You’re close to the city, you have the beaches, you can go farther east and you still have the farmland.”
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The cost of living. The taxes,” Rachele says. “If our family wasn’t here, we would absolutely, without hesitation, move.”
Kaitlin Thoden, 31, and Zach Thoden, 32
MEET THE MILLENNIALS Both work full time; Kaitlin is an audiologist and Zach is a salesman and recently became a real estate agent as well. They met at the beach at Smith Point County Park.
MEET THE KIDS Max, 2, and Jake, 2 months
WHERE THEY LIVE Patchogue
WHY THEY CHOSE THEIR COMMUNITY Zach grew up in Medford, and Patchogue was also convenient for his former commute. Kaitlin grew up in Ridge.
RENT OR OWN? They purchased a ranch in 2012 for $309,000. They bought before Patchogue’s surge in downtown redevelopment and popularity. “Now everyone wants to be in Patchogue,” she says.
HOW THEY HANDLE CHILD CARE Since he was 13 weeks old, Max has been going to a day-care center in Ridge owned by the same woman who took care of Kaitlin many years ago when her mother was working. Jake will be going there as well. It’s not the most convenient location for the Thodens, but “when you leave your 13-week-old for nine hours a day, you want to be confident that your child is being taken care of well,” Kaitlin says.
HOW THEY SAVE MONEY “We don’t,” Kaitlin says. But with Zach getting his real estate license, they plan to use any house sales to pay off their new driveway and then put money away.
HOW THEY CONNECT WITH OTHER FAMILIES When Max was a baby, Kaitlin joined a “new moms” group at the Childbearing Family Alliance in Smithtown. “They run parenting groups,” she says. The seven moms in the group have stayed in touch through a private Facebook page they created — a typical millennial solution, Kaitlin jokes.
HAVE THEY CONSIDERED LEAVING LONG ISLAND? They lived in Florida for almost five years while Kaitlin was in graduate school and moved back in 2011 when Kaitlin got a job offer here. “We considered staying there,” she says. But “home” won out. “Our family is here, so this is definitely where we want to be raising our children,” she says.
BEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “We’re close to our family,” Kaitlin says.
HARDEST THING ABOUT RAISING A FAMILY ON LONG ISLAND “The cost,” Kaitlin says.
FAVORITE LONG ISLAND PARENTING HACK “I’m a big fan of the baby wearing group,” Kaitlin says — she’s a member of Humans Wearing Baby Humans Long Island. “This group is so helpful.” She says moms share advice and informally meet up at places such as a local library.