February 25, 2015 08:00 AM

Kelly Clarkson opens up about marriage, the joys of being a mom and her emotional new album Piece by Piece. Subscribe now for instant access to her exclusive interview and personal family photos, only in this issue of PEOPLE!

Kelly Clarkson never thought her life would look like this. Within a year, she became a wife and a mother of three and couldn’t be happier about it.

“My whole life took a big 180,” the singer — who releases Piece by Piece, her first non-holiday album since 2011, on March 3 – tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “I never thought I was going to be a mom, so it’s very much changed my world in the most awesome way.”

Anders Overgaard

These days, her life with husband Brandon Blackstock, 38, their daughter River Rose, 8 months, and her stepkids Savannah, 13, and Seth, 8, is a blissful, chaotic mix of homework, diapers, and date nights. And while she still makes time for the globetrotting duties of a pop star, her perspective has shifted.

“I love what I do, but I feel like I relied on my career a lot for my self-worth. And now I’m more than that,” says Clarkson, 32, during the revealing interview at her Nashville-area home. “I’m a mother and a wife and have this whole other thing going on.”

Since giving birth to River — whom Clarkson calls “the happiest baby on the planet” — the singer has felt an unexpected emotion.

“I have a certain level of peace I didn’t know was going to come with it,” she says. And within her new life, which helped heal some of the wounds caused by her own parents’ divorce, she has found a renewed purpose.

“My best friend always says, ‘You just want to create the family you never had.’ I might be doing that,” Clarkson adds. “In defense of my family, it happens. People fall out of love, and people go separate ways. People are human. I’ve accomplished a lot, but I guess the biggest success I want is that whenever I die people will say, ‘She was so successful as a mother, and as a wife.’ That’s kind of my big goal.”

For more of PEOPLE’s exclusive interview with Clarkson, including more personal family photos, pick up the latest issue of the magazine, on newsstands Friday.

— Mary Margaret

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