For years, Laurel Waring poured her energy into issues affecting the aged. As an undergrad at UC Davis, she studied adulthood and aging. Next, she headed to Stanford to research heart disease in older adults.  Then she studied UC Med in San Francisco to become a clinical nurse specialist in gerontology.

But now she spends her days with people at the other end of the age spectrum: her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. 

“I planned for this time of life, though I thought I’d be working part-time,” says Laurel, 32. “But I’m loving my time now with them.”

Laurel first moved to Benicia in 2006 with her husband, Grant. They moved to Washington in 2008, where she worked as a nurse. Their daughter is a Washington native, and their son was born after they returned to Benicia in 2010.

Sitting in her living room while her son plays happily with plastic critters on the couch, Laurel talks about the role of the Benicia Moms Group in her life. She is vice president of the organization, which has about 170 members.

“I was a member within a month of returning to Benicia,” says Laurel. “I needed to get out of the house and meet people and have my daughter interacting with other kids. My best friends are from the Moms Group.”

What Benicia Moms Group activities do you participate in? I’m now active in two playgroups and the health and fitness group. That’s mostly moms exercising while the kids are in strollers.

I’m part of the babysitting co-op. … It’s so helpful to be able to trade hours so you can go to the dentist or other appointments.

I’m also part of recipe share, which is an online exchange.

We have a Book Club, but I’m not a member and I’m not sure why because I read a lot.

How does the Moms Group aim to help new moms? The Moms Group‘s mission is to provide meaningful support for moms. Yes, you can make good friends through the group, but we also offer support when needed, from the advice on the forums, meals when a mom has a new baby, opportunities to get out of the house.

We have professional moms, single moms, Spanish-speaking moms—it’s not just stay-at-home moms.  We try to appeal to every mom with the different clubs within the group.

We have kids of all different abilities, so we help normalize differences. The Moms Group can connect moms to other moms who have similar circumstances so they can share their experiences.

So it’s not a support group per se, but we are there to provide meaningful assistance at transitional times in mom’s lives.  And it’s just fun.

What do you do as vice president of the Moms Group? Mostly I support the president, help with coordinating things and communication. The vice president selects a project every year for Community Service. This year we did two: we adopted a family through CAC (Community Action Council) at the holidays and we did backpacks in the fall, also with CAC. The group is large enough that if everyone gives a small amount, it adds up and we can make a great difference.

I’m also organizing Spa Night, which is a big Moms Night Out. We ask spas to provide people to trim bangs, paint nails, offer massages.  … It’s amazing how generous this city is—we get a lot of donations. Moms certainly enjoy a night of pampering. They like having a glass of wine and a night to talk without the kids around.

How did you decide to be a stay-at-home mom? I was working part-time in Seattle, but we wanted to have another kid and our daughter has some special needs. I had to take her to speech therapy and other therapies, and we had to do exercises at home. We’d make it seem like play. She now goes to Robert Semple Special Day School.  … I can’t say enough about what Benicia schools have done for her.

We were moving back to Benicia, we wanted another kid and I was ready to be home with them. 

What have you learned from being a mom? I never had to have patience for 14 hours a day before. You have to be nice and patient. I can’t say I’ve mastered it; I’m still a work in progress.

It’s an awesome and challenging thing to be responsible for other beings, to have to make all your decisions and plans based on that. You just can’t eat junk food all day long, there has to be some green in there. You have to learn selflessness. But then there are these little people who think the world of you.

What will you do to celebrate Mother’s Day this year? We’ll go to church and probably go out to dinner. My husband will let me sleep in and pick up the slack. We’re not as big on holidays as some people are.

What’s the best advice you have for new moms? Get involved, get out and get involved with friends. Get your kids playing and happy. For me, it’s sanity. I just can’t stay home all day. Find friends you can relate to, have a support person who’s there during the day that you can communicate with in more than three-word phrases.

Who do you rely on now that you are a mom? For day-to-day things, I have my best friends. One has a son the same age as our son, the other has five kids. We keep each other sane. Even just texting helps us keep our sanity.

The neighbors all chat with one another, and my husband’s great about taking the kids when he’s home. My parents are semi-local so they come down and help.

What do you do to relax? We hike, and my husband and I are on a co-ed recreational soccer team that plays every Sunday in Vacaville. We’re called The Slowpokes. It’s just for fun.

I read books. I like to read anything that’s lighthearted:  mysteries, lighthearted romantic comedies.

I like checking in on Facebook. I’m not on Pinterest, but I have friends who are and they point out the best things they find. I now make my own laundry detergent for cents per load. They find these amazing things.

What’s next for you? Today? Next week? After parenthood? (laughs)

Our next phase will be when our daughter starts transitional kindergarten, then we’ll start Stepping Stones with our son. With the new laws, over the next series of years as they roll back the age kids must be when they start kindergarten, they’re offering transitional kindergarten. For kids born in October and November 2008, it essentially means a two-year kindergarten program. It’s awesome for us with our daughter.

What do you hope to be doing in five years? I hope to be working, probably half-time—that’s the blessing of nursing, you can work part-time. I’ll hopefully be teaching and doing support groups for older adults on health topics, then be home when the kids are out of school and taking them to soccer practice, swim practice, music lessons, helping with homework.