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Motherhood Challenges: Coping with Confusing Ambivalence in Times of Change

grief support guest blog motherhood May 22, 2023
motherhood challenges grief change

This is a guest blog, highlighting other voices and providing a view into different aspects of grief. 

By: Amanda Tan, PhD 

It’s the first day of daycare. My 11-month-old clings to me as I untangle myself from the bags to hand to the teacher. Her fists grab my hair as I struggle to balance and write my name on the clipboard to sign her in. Logistics and paperwork complete, it’s time for the handover. S begins to protest as she feels me shift to hoist her over the baby gate to her teacher. The teacher has her now. S looks around in bewilderment. Then the tears began. Oops. 

I had been anticipating this day for several weeks. After months of being home with S, I was missing myself.

I was looking forward to the time and space I would gain while she was being cared for by someone else during the day. 

On the drop-off day though, the feeling was bittersweet. I realized that it was also a farewell to one-on-one time with S. Gone are the days when it’s just her and I at home. Gone are the days of holding her during naptime. … And hello mom-guilt. Why didn’t I appreciate that time with her more? Is she better off in daycare than with me? Or, if she’s better off with me, why am I enrolling her in daycare?

What a jumble of thoughts!

Transitions are always challenging in some ways. Even if it’s something we had been looking forward to. It’s alright to experience mixed feelings and the reasons for them are valid. Mixed feelings can be confusing and leave us feeling unenthusiastic about the transition. Particularly because the more negative emotions (e.g. sadness, guilt, anxiety) tend to take center stage. In these times, it can be helpful to take a moment to seek clarity. 

I took the time to identify what I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. Just to name a few emotions -  sadness, guilt, and worry, but also excitement and relief. There was also the general stress related to the practical considerations of financial stress, adapting to changes in routine, and changes in my day-to-day responsibilities. 

Sadness and Guilt

These stemmed from my expectations of motherhood. In the beginning, I had assumed that I’d want to be around my children most of the time. I’d imagined doing all sorts of activities together and spending productive days with them. However, in reality, I was often too physically tired to do anything “extra” beyond feeding, cleaning, and some play or reading. This contradiction made me question myself as a mother. 

I was also sad that I wouldn’t be able to hold S while she napped. I’ll miss looking at her adorable cheeks and eyelashes while she sleeps. I wonder if I’ll miss her first steps, first words, or other firsts. 

At the same time, I acknowledged that “mother” was not the only role I embodied. I am also a partner, friend, and psychologist. It is inevitable for my energy and attention to be split. Perhaps what matters is that when I do have time with S in the evenings and weekends, I am truly present with her. After a month of daycare, I found this much easier to do because I have had the day away from her and missed her. Her time in daycare was also not a “loss” for her. She may have less time with me now, but she was gaining perhaps an enriched environment - exposure to other children and other adults who care for her. 


I wondered if the daycare staff would know how to respond to S. Whether S would eat or nap in the new environment. But then I remember that the staff are professional carers of children, with years of experience with infants. And so I can usually put those worries to rest. At the same time, part of me wonders whether I worry enough. Is worrying expected of all parents? Does it mean that I’m less of a parent if I don’t worry? Or might the lack of worry mean that I trust my partner and my decision in selecting a place for our children to spend their weekdays? 

Excitement and relief

I don’t typically enjoy the day-to-day of caring for an infant. I did get to a point where I felt satisfaction when she’d eat something I prepared or was in clean clothes and diapers ready for a nap in my arms. But I also always dreamed about working as a psychologist, and now I’d have some time to invest in that career. 

Looking at the emotions and thoughts listed, I realize that each of them was valid and real. Each of them stemmed from different desires and my different roles in life. By acknowledging the origins of these feelings, I was giving space to different aspects of my identity, in this case, as a mother and psychologist.

When we recognize all the different emotions and their sources, we acknowledge how rich life is.  In transitions, there are not only losses but gains as well. And even with the experience of negative emotions, there can still be things to be grateful for.


Amanda Tan PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice based in California. She has a passion for helping young families by guiding women through perinatal adjustment issues and strengthening couple relationships. In her spare time (when she is not chasing after her three young daughters), she enjoys coffee, reading, and writing. You can find out more about her and her thoughts on motherhood on her website -