For most labor day is a free day off work, a reason to barbecue, and a couple extra hours for sleep. Not only was this past Monday labor day, it was also my daughter’s birthday.

They say children change everything. In my case that old axiom has incredibly more meaning. Never had I fought so hard for anything in my life as I had to fight for my daughter. I had to fight in court; fight through depression; fight through exhaustion, poverty, and hunger. Through it all I did my best to make sure that not once did I blame my daughter for the hardship of being a single parent. Not once did I let her go without, even if it meant I skipped a meal, went without sleep, or had to sew up the holes in my clothes for the umpteenth time.

Yes children change things, but my daughter did so much more for me. She made me the woman I am today. Yes I was the one who made the decision to tough it out, even though I found myself as a single parent when my daughter was just barely 6 months old, but she was the one who showed me what beauty was. She showed me that unconditional love still existed and that two people could be so deeply and irrevocably connected. She showed me that what I thought were my limits were nothing more than doubt and that I could go farther, harder, longer,and better than I ever dreamed.

She showed me who I could be.

I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to become that person, if not for my own sake, but because she deserved it. She deserved a good mother. She deserved a roof over her head, clean clothes, a good education, drawn out birthdays, and magical holidays. For five years it was just the two of us and even though I’ve remarried and have to share my time with one others, my daughter is still the number one person in my life. Only now I don’t have to work as hard, I don’t have to pull 12 hour shifts and all night study fests, I don’t have to struggle to find a babysitter I can afford. Now, I get to just be the mother I want to be and hope that in the end my daughter grows up with less challenges than I faced, with more opportunities and joy, and knowing that no matter what I will always be there for her.

This is what labor day means to me.