Housing, parenting, and faith

Zoey Maraist writes on young Catholics living with hope, getting married, having kids, and embarking on the adventure of life together despite economic challenges that are shaping most of the Millennial experience:

Brothers Brendan, 7, David, 5, Matthew, 3, and James, 2, smile and cheer as their father Daniel, 29, pushes them higher and higher on the swing in their front lawn. Baby Finn rests comfortably in his mother Mary’s arms as she watches her boys soar.

The five brothers get a lot of family time. Mary, 29, homeschools the school-age children, and though he commutes from Herndon to Arlington, Daniel’s schedule allows him a good amount of quality time with his kids before their bedtime. They know many Northern Virginia families involve their kids in several different activities, but Mary and Daniel, parishioners of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, try to prioritize family life.

“These boys are like best friends and I hope that relationship continues even when they start going to a school where they’re in different grades,” said Mary, adding, “And that they have a really solid sense of being part of our family first.”

Family was a big reason Daniel, who grew up in Vienna, and Mary, a Dallas native, decided to settle in Northern Virginia. “This family circle of community is definitely a part of why we’re able to be here,” said Mary. “If we moved to someplace cheaper, we’d be trading away the family relationships.”

Mary and Daniel starting dating while attending the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. They were married in Texas and lived with Daniel’s parents after having their first son. “(Daniel’s mom) especially really encouraged me (to stay at home), (saying) since you’re already with family, just stay home with him and see how it goes, and that just rolled into the rest of our lives,” said Mary.

Their first place of their own was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op in Burke. “Because it’s sort of an unusual financial structure, especially for the area, it tends to be cheaper,” said Daniel. They slowly made improvements, and four years later, moved into their current home, which had more space but was still relatively close to Daniel’s parents. “When buying the house, we just had to accept that housing here is very expensive and our priority was to find some place we wouldn’t have to move out of,” said Mary.

The other reason to return to the area was Daniel’s alma mater, The Heights School in Potomac, Md., where they hope to send their boys. The couple likes the school’s single-sex environment, the liberal arts education and the strong faith formation. The connections Daniel made at the school have served him well post-graduation, too. “All my jobs came through people I knew at The Heights,” said Daniel, who now works in government consulting in addition to serving in the National Guard.

The couple’s current financial priority is to save for school, and for whatever else their growing family needs. “This would be a great time to be putting away as much as possible into retirement, but we also need to save for a new car because one more kid and we don’t fit in our minivan,” said Mary. “Secular peers would have more of a sense of what their family size will be, but we have a fuzzier sense of what that will be, so you have to plan for those contingencies.”

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