The birth of her first baby and the transition from work force to the diaper brigade made Janet Fairbank "desperate for adult company."
Finding other mothers in like situations was a challenge. She had just moved to an Eldersburg development and had not connected with her new neighbors.
"It wasn't like the days of our own mothers, when you could hang over the gate and talk with your neighbor," she said. "The neighbors were all off working."
Three years ago, she connected with Moms on the Move, a fledgling group for stay-at-home mothers. Now, she serves as the club's president and sees familiar maternal faces everywhere she goes in South Carroll.
"It's nice to go into a store and bump into a friend," she said.
The club, whose membership has grown from 25 to 80 since its beginnings in March 1989, is good for kids and even better for moms, she said.
Members said they are stay-at-home mothers who put family first without putting themselves last.
"We meet other mothers and form a network of friendships for ourselves and our children," said Marilyn Manger, charter member and vice president. "When mom is happy, the child's happiness follows."
Moms on the Move meets monthly on the ground floor of the Eldersburg Community Center. They hear guest speakers, often while tuning out the noise from their children playing overhead.
They share such mundane topics as where to go shopping -- "George's 'jungle room' for kids makes it the best place to grocery shop," one mother said -- to discussions on critical issues.
The November meeting will feature a self-defense presentation by the state police and the staff of the county's Rape Crisis Center. The members also help one another form play groups, each with about six children; plan outings and parties; publish a monthly newsletter; and schedule one "mothers-only" dinner meeting each month.
By relying on whatever free resources are available, the club has been able to hold the dues to $10 a year.
"The play groups for the children are great," said Mrs. Fairbank. "They get to see their friends and visit each other's homes once a week."
Christopher Rodgers, 2, thought he was coming to his weekly play group the day of his mother's monthly meeting. When he realized his mistake, he tearfully insisted on staying with mom and his new baby sister.
"I get a lot out of this group, and my son gets a lot out of his play group, too," said Diana Rodgers.
While the moms listened intently to a discussion on children's literature, most of their children were at play, only a staircase away.
About 40 -- babies to 5-year-olds -- snacked, socialized and tinkered with toys under the careful eye of several baby sitters. Four students from Liberty High School's Child Life program and six mothers kept the ratio of sitters to toddlers at about 1-to-5, said Terry McLeod, who coordinates baby-sitting for the club.
"Calm down, it's OK," said Debbie Curtis, a high school senior, as she gently patted a crying toddler on the back.
Stacie Manger, at 5 among the oldest children, said the room was noisy but, "I like playing here."
"My guys really like this play time," said Donna Heying, who expected her third child any day. "And for some of us mothers, this is our only outing."
While the schedule is organized months ahead of time, Mrs. McLeod still hears "Am I volunteering this month or next?" from harried mothers. She has plenty of offers for extra hands.
"It's pretty wild in here today," said another mother. "Do you need help?"
Help also is only a staircase away, said Mrs. McLeod, who remained calm through her charges' sniffles and sobs of separation anxiety.
"If I need anyone, I just go downstairs to the meeting and get her," she said.
Slight mishaps necessitated a few trips to retrieve a mother from the meeting.
"Your son needs you. Some little girl bit him," she whispered to Patricia Jansen.
Minutes later, Mrs. Jansen returned to the meeting, her arms full of her 3-year-old twins. A cookie or two later, she had identified her son's "assailant." With twins, she had heard the rest of this story many times.
"Danny wouldn't give Krystin his toy," she said. "So, she bit him."
Everyone heard all about what young readers need as Norma Jean Swam passed books around the room. Mrs. Swam, the assistant principal at Piney Ridge Elementary, shared many hints to ensure a lifelong love of reading.
"Children need a lot of books of their own, a bedtime lamp which they can turn out themselves and a basketful of books in the bathroom," she said.
The club meets from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. the third Thursday of every month at the Eldersburg Center on Route 32.
New members are welcome but need to make reservations for baby-sitting, which costs $1 per child. The next meeting will be Nov. 19.
Information: 549-1563 or 781-7576.