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5 Ways Single Motherhood Changed Me for the Better

Single mothers tend to get a bad rap, particularly single mothers of young children. When you are toting a little one around on your hip with no ring on your finger, people automatically assume you must have been unconscionably promiscuous and too stupid not to get pregnant. No one ever considers the fact that this may have been the dream all along: motherhood, with or without that partner by your side.

Because surely, motherhood isn't a responsibility anyone would ever actually choose to take on alone. Right?

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Well, I guess that depends on who you are. But for me, yes, single motherhood was a choice. And a year and a half into it, I can honestly say that it was the best choice I have ever made. Not only because my daughter is the most incredible little human being I have ever met, but also because of the ways in which she has forever altered how I live my life.

I am a better person because of my little girl. And I have single motherhood to thank for these differences in the person I am today:

1. An End to the Drunken Debauchery

I'll admit it, I was always a girl who liked to party. A bit of an introvert with a flair for being socially awkward, tossing a few cocktails back helped me in the past to feel like I actually fit in. After years of working in bars, I had perfected my shot-taking abilities and learned exactly how to become the life of the party.

The problem was that while my behavior was somewhat normal and cute in my early 20s, it started to become a little more concerning as I approached my 30s — particularly after I was told I would never have children. Single and barren while all my friends were marrying off and announcing pregnancies, I was sad. Like, really sad. And so I used those nights out to pretend the sadness away. Unfortunately, drinking too much and bringing home men I knew far too little about never actually made me feel any better. Neither did the hangovers that seemed to last for days.

Since becoming a mother though, none of that appeals to me anymore. At all. I would genuinely rather spend Friday nights in with my girl, and the idea of wasting our weekends away with me nursing a hangover sounds miserable. I want none of it. Give me a glass of wine every once and while with my girlfriends, sure, but keep the tequila to yourselves.

2. No More Frogs to Kiss

My daughter has helped me to realize that we both deserve the very best when it comes to the man I allow into our lives.

I haven't exactly had the best taste in men over the years. In fact, my dating history is pretty ridiculous. Liars, cheaters and manipulators — I've let them all into my bed. I've even allowed myself to fall in love with a few of them, leading to a heart that is far more fractured than it should be. Before my daughter, I just didn't care much about protecting myself. A handsome face and a few charming words was pretty much all it ever took for me.

Now, I'm holding out for Prince Charming. Suddenly, I am picky and discerning about who I spend my time with. And even the bouts of loneliness I sometimes feel as a result of my clearly diminished dating life aren't enough to convince me to settle for something, or someone, less than amazing. Because my daughter has helped me to realize that we both deserve the very best when it comes to the man I eventually allow into our lives.

Being a single mother has given me a set of standards I never really had before.

3. Learning to Say "No"

I have always been a people pleaser. My entire life, I have been the girl who bends over backwards for those she cares about. And I like being that girl, really and truly — I like being someone my closest friends and family members know they can count on. But sometimes it gets a little out of hand, both personally and professionally. And there have certainly been times in the past when I have stretched myself far too thin in an effort to be everything to everyone else.

Not anymore though. These days, I take my daughter into consideration before committing myself to anything. And if what you are asking for is going to lead to less time with her, or in any way hinder my ability to enjoy our life together, I'm far more likely to say "no" than ever before. I don't make excuses or look for reasons to give less than I should, but I do always place our little family as the top priority, above and beyond all else.

4. Shooting for the Stars

My daughter inspires me to strive to become a woman both she and I can be proud of.

Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. But for whatever reason, I never actually thought I was talented enough or smart enough or witty enough to make a living writing. I figured there were tens of thousands of people far more qualified than me trying to make that dream work every day, and there was no possible way I could stand out amidst that crowd.

Then my daughter was born, and the idea of going back to an office 40 hours a week while I sent her to daycare made me feel absolutely ill. I couldn't do it. I knew there had to be a better way. And so, I began really shooting for that old dream of mine, using my maternity leave as an opportunity to see what I might be capable of. And you know what? I was actually able to make it work. I'm in my second year now as a freelance writer and editor, and I have managed to find more success than I ever would have in the corporate world – while also having the flexibility to be the kind of mother I want to be. When my daughter isn't with me, I get to reach for my dreams. And when she is, I am able to set work aside and focus completely on her. I get the best of both worlds, and my daughter gets to grow up watching her mommy succeed at doing something she truly loves.

I don't know that it gets much better than that.

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5. Being the Example

Obviously, looking at some of the examples above, it's clear that I haven't always been a girl with the best sense of self-worth. The truth is, I didn't really grow up having that instilled in me. There was a lot of chaos for me as a kid, a lot of being discarded and treated as an afterthought. Those messages remained with me for most of my adult life, and while I understood the ramifications of my broken childhood, I didn't always understand how to pick up the pieces and heal those wounds on my own.

But on a daily basis, my daughter inspires me to move past those memories and to hold my head high, to strive to become a woman both she and I can be proud of. I want to be the example to her that I never really had, and reaching for that goal has allowed me to become the best possible version of myself. There is always room to grow, and I will forever be working toward better, but I'm pretty sure that if it weren't for my daughter, I never would have realized what I was fully capable of — what kind of woman I could actually be.

And for that, I only love her more.

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