When you first become a mom, your child is the center of your life. After the first year, as the all-consuming role of early motherhood starts to wane, you start to wonder what else is in your life. Do you have anything else to talk about besides diapers and developmental stages?

It was around when Baby J turned a year that I first realized I needed something more. I had previously been laid off at 5 months pregnant from my position as a proofreader at Princess Cruises. You’d be surprised how difficult the transition is from working person out in the world to stay-at-home mom. Some women stay afloat by taking pride in supreme housekeeping or mastering French cuisine. I wish sometimes I could be one of them, satisfied with the role of early ’60s housewife Betty Draper (at least before she fell off the deep end).

I brainstormed and journaled for a few months, considering every intellectual avenue like writing a book of poetry, starting an online literary magazine, and even getting a (gasp!) job. I went so far as to apply for a copy editor job, only to get it and turn it down.

At the same time, I was itching to start traveling again. James and I had been on hiatus from trips after our last “just us” cruise through the Panama Canal, and every place I researched seemed like a big hassle. We wanted somewhere that we could have an easy, pleasant vacation with a baby.

Cue our new beach home in Carlsbad, CA. I noticed that there were a lot of families on vacation here, and I wondered why. Carlsbad has many great features for a first family trip with a baby or toddler, like two scenic walking paths on the beach, a ramp to take the stroller down to the sand and a cute village nearby with restaurants and hotels. It’s ideal for the mom and dad who want to travel but don’t want to be too inconvenienced.

On the other hand, we had seen our fair share of beaches that weren’t set up for babies: main access by stairs, too remote for comfort or just plain dirty. Sure, there are adventurous people who will take their children anywhere, but we were not among them.

When I had Baby J, I wanted vacations to be easy. Because nothing else was! If she needed something on our trip, I wanted to be able to get it. There are some times you want to hide out at a remote beach and some times you want reliable access to a concession stand. In short, I wanted to create a resource where parents could find the perfect beach to suit their baby’s (and their) needs.

I have a background in journalism, which means that I like to observe and I like to write. I started by doing just that on our beach in Carlsbad, talking to parents and scoping out their stuff. Then, we scheduled trips all over California to check out the others. It was easy to travel with Baby J because she was naturally entertained by beaches, which further cemented my idea that a beach vacation is best for a baby or toddler.

Each beach in California calls to a different part of me. One of my favorite moments thus far has been when we raced down a dirt trail to catch Pfeiffer Beach at sunset, sunlight pouring in through the rock formations. We had missed the turn-off once, and expecting solitude in this secret Big Sur spot, were amazed to see tons of tourist and professional photographers there. I swear there are so many wonderful parts of California that one can never expect to see them all!

So, find something you love: the ocean, the forest, hiking, sewing or learning languages. Then, disguise your research as something fun and the whole family will be on board. When I study the beaches, Baby J studies the shells. Throw in the fact that James loves to surf, and my newly retired parents like to watch their favorite granddaughter, and Beach For Baby was born.