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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mama Bear Moxie: The slippery slope of comparison

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

I consider myself to be a recovering mommy guilt survivor. There were many times as a young mom when I would compare my mothering to others and subsequently feel bad about my skills. I thought that it was all behind me, but I had two recent experiences that showed I wasn’t quite done recovering.

The first instance happened while I was watching my daughter play with some friends at an event. I was encouraged to see that the other mom was like me in that she packed homemade snacks and provided activities and games for her children that engaged their brain. No screens were in sight, and I loved it. I was cleaning up from the event and heard one of her children say, “Shay Shay” and I immediately thought that child was speaking Mandarin. (“Thank you” in Mandarin is “hsie hsie,” pronounced “shay shay”.)

I immediately found myself in awe of this woman other mom. Why can’t I be a mom who teaches my kid Mandarin? I mean, I don’t know the language myself other than this one word, but I should be a better mom and teach them every other language in the world right? It turned out that the child was calling the nickname of her brother and I immediately laughed at myself for allowing my guilt to get the best of me … yet again.

The second instance happened around the dinner table. My son told us another mother we know got up every morning and made her family homemade pancakes or waffles for breakfast. I was astonished. I found myself questioning why I didn’t wake up and make homemade breakfasts on busy weekday mornings for my family as well. I mean, if she can do it so should I, right? I even went as far as imagining her getting up early before dawn in order to make breakfast from scratch. I envisioned her mixing and frying enough pancakes for her large family before I even got a chance to hit the snooze button again.

I let the guilt wash over me for about a week until I had a chance to ask this mom when I saw her at a school event. I shared the story, and she denied doing that every morning and stated that her kids usually have things like toast or cereal for breakfast. I was so relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only mother who refrained from making hot breakfasts every morning. I felt incredibly stupid for allowing this guilt to mess with me so much.

Mommy guilt is sneaky in its uncanny ability to rise up in the most unexpected places. Even moms with older kids can quickly be pulled down by the slippery slope of comparisons. So, just in case you too are a mom who thinks cold cereal is a fine weekday breakfast choice and haven’t taught your kids Mandarin, I am right there with you.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois who writes about family and faith. Contact her at or visit her website at www.mamabear

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