When I say “Motherhood has made me better because…” you might think I’m about to spout off about how I’ve learned patience, self-restraint, or how my heart has grown three sizes. To be perfectly honest, it hasn’t.

In fact, if I compare pre-mom me and my current person, I see someone who has had sections chipped off the mountain of patience and togetherness of that young and unencumbered preschool-teaching me.

Motherhood has changed me in countless ways. Today, I want to focus on the good ways. Here’s how motherhood has changed me for the better:

Our house is actually tidier

Parents everywhere share the woes of how their house is eternally messy because of the kids, and here I am thinking how much tidier everything is. Some people seem to be born as adults, always so tidy and responsible, while others (hello, there) are more of the creative disaster type.

I seem to fall in the latter category. Or at least I did, until along came a baby, who quickly grew to be mobile. We had no choice but to pick up coins, cups, papers, and anything else we would usually set down and forget. Even now that our child is three, old enough for us to worry less about spilled cups and paper cuts, we’ve become trained to be better at putting things where they belong.

Sure, our home will never be magazine worthy, but we’ve come a long way from our lazy pre-child days.

We eat less candy at 10 in the morning

Notice I said “less candy,” because it still may happen, just behind-the-counter-ninja-style rather than blatant gluttony.

When raising a human being, there’s this expectation to teach healthy habits and reinforce these lessons by practicing these habits. You can’t really tell a toddler they can’t have sugar for breakfast, and then fill up your own bowl with sparkly diabetes-inducing treats and expect them to buy it.

Attempting to be a positive role model when it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition is one heck of a way to kick your own butt into healthier habits. The risk of entering the hell that is sugar-induced tantrums is one fantastic reason to bypass candy as often as possible.

I’m forced to interact with awesome people

While I fancy myself a sociable person, the truth is I could be quite content never leaving my safe warm home, knitting up a storm or reading a book. I like being home, and I thoroughly enjoy my own company.

Adding my own child to the mix has been a challenging adjustment when it comes to my enjoyment of alone time. Sure, I’ll make every effort to go to that party, and I might even plan one of my own, but building up the courage and desire to smile my way into a new social circle and solidly break the ice has never been my strong point.

But that saying about it taking a village to raise a child is remarkably true. Maybe you can get by staying strictly to yourself, accepting help and companionship from no one, but in my case, I have felt a huge sense of relief in sharing my motherhood experience with others.

There are times when you need to leave your little with a safe and caring adult. Or maybe, on occasion, you need some help around the house. Sometimes you may simply need an open ear to spill your soul into. Those connections you’ve made at the gymnastics class or Strong Start program will prove invaluable in those moments.

Some of these parenting connections might even become close, lasting friendships you would never have made had you not had a two-year-old pulling at your leg and begging you to take them to the park.

I understand more, and judge less

Of every lesson I’ve learned in my parenting journey thus far, the biggest is probably not to judge another person’s situation. It’s easy to imagine what you may or may not do when standing outside a situation. But once you’re in it, oh baby, everything feels different.

I’ve made mistakes, of course, and find myself jumping to conclusions about how I would do things differently than another parent. But the shock of being responsible for a tiny young life 24/7 has drilled this in my brain: You have no idea what it’s like for them.

Try as you might to wrap your head around the responsibilities, feelings, demands, stresses, and resources of someone else’s life, but you will never completely understand their situation. Offering help, and resisting judgment, will get you and everyone else much farther.

Whether you like it or not, parenthood will change you, for better or worse. What you choose to focus on makes the difference in how you feel, and how you feel makes an enormous impact on who you are every day.

Who do you choose to be?