When I found out I was pregnant at 19, my world shifted on its axis. I’d just broken up with my ex and saw no chance of ever wanting to work things out with him, so I was destined to be a single teen mom—and that scared the crap out of me. I had no choice but to put my big girl panties on and embark on the journey alone. Almost a decade later, I credit my years as a single mom for making me the best version of myself.
I grew up quickly and a lot. My life no longer revolved around college bars and all-day ragers and my paychecks went from being used on beer to being saved for diapers and formula. I had to become budget savvy and totally reevaluate my priorities. And although I have to admit that the FOMO was real at first, I soon felt that my life had more value to it than before and I was working towards something bigger.
I learned to depend only on myself and I got stronger. All of the sudden, a little human was going to be calling me “Mom.” I went from having my mother doing my laundry to learning how to run an entire household solo. I learned to cook, clean, get poop stains out of onesies, put together baby furniture, and most importantly, not have to lean on anyone but me.
I finally started to love my body. I mean, I formed human eyeballs in there! I no longer nitpicked every imperfection, no longer hated every fleshy roll, but I also didn’t let having a baby become an excuse. I wanted to be healthier for him, stronger while still learning to love my tiger stripes. I refused to hide my body anymore and became more confident in the skin I was in because it was capable of miracles.
I became more selective about the people in my life. Because of this, my circle became very small. I didn’t have time for drama and toxic people and also didn’t want them around my child. As quickly as I let go of the negative, I welcomed positive influences and made sure to befriend strong, smart individuals who would help guide me on my journey to becoming the best possible version of myself.
I also became more selective with the men I dated. Before I became a mother, my taste in men was terrible and I was attracted to everything I didn’t actually want in a long-term partner. Once I realized I now had a son who would one day look up to whoever I let into his life, I realized I couldn’t entertain anyone who wouldn’t be the best possible role model and potential father figure. While the dating pool got really, really small, it consisted of a lot more quality and potential.
I weeded out the guys who wanted to play games way more easily. A man knew that becoming a part of my life meant that he had to have the same goals and visions I had. It was either going to go somewhere or it wasn’t even going to start. This saved me from wasting a lot of time on guys who were only in it for a good time and helped me see if a guy truly took me seriously.
I learned I was capable of so much more than I thought. I had no idea how strong I was until I became a single mom. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but a single mom usually has to do it alone. During my teens, I could never picture myself running a household, let alone keeping a small human alive, but I surprised myself. I did everything I had to and more to ensure that my little one lives his best life.
I realized I don’t NEED a man in my life. Typically, when you imagine your future as a young woman, you don’t picture yourself as a single parent. To be honest, initially I didn’t think I COULD get through parenting without a partner—someone to open those baby food jars and put together Ikea furniture—but I learned quickly. I soon realized I could survive in the world without a man, and it made me so much more selective when choosing one to settle down with.
Being a mom taught me so much about love. The first time I held my son, my world changed. I knew that life wasn’t only about me anymore. If there’s one thing my boy taught me it’s that love is selfless, patient and giving, even if sometimes it feels like you’re not getting much in return besides vomit in your hair, those goodnight hugs and snuggles make it all worth it.