Love is spelled M-O-M

Is there any building block more basic in a community or society than a mother?

Note to everyone who has a mother: Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 10.

What is the hardest part about being a mother? Or what is the best part about being a mother?

These questions seem naivé, but garnered heartfelt answers when The People-Sentinel posed the queries to mothers in a random mother-on-the-street survey.

"It's hard. When they get bigger, they get harder. When they are little, they are easier, but you love them anyway," said Inell Owens. "The good part is knowing you got them."

The hard part is how much busier one's life becomes with children, said Alicia Middleton.

The best part?

Middleton had a short, simple answer.

"She is," Middleton said, nodding toward her nearly two-year-old daughter, Zaikeyah.

Tiffany Green of Williston echoed Owens on the difficulty in being a mother.

"It's hard but I enjoy my kids. We have some good times, we laugh and joke," said the mother of two.

The best aspect of mothering for Green was "making my children happy. Doing whatever I can to make them happy," she said.

There are blessings received and given in being a mother, said Debbie McNeil of Williston.

"It's one of the greatest joys you can have. It's a blessing from God," she said. "You are your mother's blessing."

Motherhood is also full of joyful heartaches, McNeil said.

"There's a lot of hard things in being a mom," she said.

Like watching them grow up, said McNeil, who has three children and three grandchildren.

"Sending them off on their first day of school - you cry. They are growing up. They aren't young anymore. They are starting a long path of growing up and when they get to the end, they leave you," she said.

For the actual professional jobs that some women do, being a mother is almost a prerequisite.

Often times, the best medicine Linda Starnes, the school nurse at Kelly Edwards Elementary School dispenses is a dose of Mom.

"It's a big part of me to treat them like a mother," she said. "Sometimes you have to give them a hug."

Starnes is the mother of three grown children. She went back to school late in life to become a registered nurse. Being a mother first has made her a better nurse and vice versa, she said.

Sometimes, it takes a mother's patience to figure out what the real hurt is behind the tummyache with a student, she said.

"Some of them just want some good ol' TLC," Starnes said.

Other than teachers, daycare workers are people who spend as much time, or more, time with children as their parents.

Mothering is part of the skill set one brings to the job, said Ormica Mixon, the daycare administrator at the New Jerusalem Daycare Center in Barnwell.

"I try to encourage my staff to treat the children like they were their own. It makes the daycare worker more compassionate and caring," she said.

"I look at all the children as if they were mine," Mixon said of the 42 children the daycare has now. Another 28 youngsters come to the center's after-school program.

Mixon said that some parents even ask her and her staff for tips on disciplining their children.

"We spend a lot of time with these kids. We get to know their likes and dislikes," she said. "If they entrust us with their kids, they must see us as mother figures too."

With her own four children, Mixon said the best part of being a mother is "seeing them excited and excelling in the things they are interested in."

How does a mother know if she has been good at the job?

Starnes provided one answer.

"I think the ultimate compliment is when your children come back and say they want to raise their children just like you raised them," she said.