The no-fear, you-can-do-it (and rock it out!) guide to single motherhood.

Being a single mom newbie is no joke. Take it from me: At 26, I joined the club when I was three months pregnant and my relationship ended. My son, Jack, now 4, arrived via C-section with my mom at my side in the delivery room. Before his birth, questions and concerns clouded my head: I live too far from my family! Will I be able to balance single motherhood and my career? How will I explain to this beautiful baby where his father is? Even more pressing: will I be able to manage his day-to-day care all on my own? How will I catch up on sleep if there’s no one around to watch the baby but me? I was exhausted just thinking about it!

Description: Being a single mom newbie is no joke.

Looking back, I found solutions – while trying to heal my heart and soul – and you will too. Here, experts and single moms who’ve been there share strategies to help you keep your sanity, your career and your life, all while raising a confident and awesome child.

Step 1: take charge

Description: These women, like all parents-to-be, correctly anticipate that raising a child will be a momentous undertaking.

Tame your emotions. There’s no “quick fix” for the hormone-fueled fireworks that explode after childbirth. On top of normal feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious, single moms also tend to experience twinges of anger and abandonment. “Single pregnant women and new moms often carry unwarranted guilt due to the circumstances that led to giving birth without a supportive partner,” says Leah Klungness Ph.D., a psychologist and co-author of The Complete Single Mother. “Even women who choose to be single mothers [aka ‘choice moms’] have moments where they teeter between excitement and fear.”

Louise Sloan, a choice mom and author of Knock Yourself Up: A Tell-All Guide to Becoming a Single Mom, says. “I tried hard not to worry or second-guess myself during my pregnancy. What’s done was done.” Instead, Sloan focused on the realistic aftermath of childbirth and bringing a baby home alone. “I had phone appointments with a therapist once a week because I wanted to be ‘in the routine’ in case I needed therapy after my baby was born.” Then there’s worry. Single moms may feel their child will somehow have less and suffer emotionally and material. “These women, like all parents-to-be, correctly anticipate that raising a child will be a momentous undertaking,” Klungness says.

Interestingly, some research suggests the majority of children raised by single parents do not have any added difficulties. What seems to matter most is the quality of the relationship between the active parent and the child, how much support a child gets from that parent and how harmonious the environment is. “Hone in on the challenges you face today, and try not to stress about future miniscule worried like who will teach your son to throw a football,” advises Klungness. “By the time your child asks about the absent parent or circumstances of their modern family, you’ll have researched the proper way to approach it.”

Description: “Handling this time on your own can be a needed confidence boost for a woman who doubted her own material skills.”

Find your village. Unsure she could raise her baby alone after her marriage abruptly ended, Jessica Cady of Del City, Oklahoma to be closer to my immediate family,” Cady says. “We raise my daughter together.” Build your support system wherever you are. Sloan recommends making a list of nearby friends and family. “Tell them about your fears and ask them if they are willing to be on your ‘single mom 911’ list,” she says. “Knowing I had someone to step in both physically [babysitting] and emotionally [overtired mommy] was a huge weight off of my shoulders.”

“For new single moms, personal responsibility is deeply ingrained and a matter of fundamental pride, so they feel honor-bound to handle those sleep-deprived first few weeks and months on their won and everything else that comes after,” says Klungness. “Handling this time on your own can be a needed confidence boost for a woman who doubted her own material skills.” This doesn’t mean you should isolate and reject assistance because, sooner or later, everyone needs it. Klungness recommends asking for help and being specific: “No one reads minds, so instead of saying ‘I’m overwhelmed,’ try saying, ‘Could you possibly pick up a couple of things for me at the supermarket the next time you go? Here’s some money.’” When your friend comes back with the milk, make tea as a thank you and chat.

Description: Rachel Sara author of Single Mom Seeking and her daughter

Rachel Sara author of Single Mom Seeking and her daughter in the background is from the October 25th NY Times article Guardians of their Smiles

Rachel Sarah, author of Single Mom Seeking and co-founder with Klungness of singlemommyhood.com, found her backup in a moms group. Her family was on the West Coast while she was raising her then-7-month-old daughter solo in New York. “Fortunately, one friendly mom in our group lived in a high-rise that was just a few blocks from me,” Sarah says. “She and her husband practically adopted my baby and me. I’ll always be grateful for the many dinners they shared in their apartment.” Sarah eventually moved closer to family. To repay the favor and ensure her friends knew their help was appreciated, Sarah offered to babysit.

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