I'VE spent 18 years, thousand of pounds and hundreds of sleepless nights raising three kids. And I also set up the UK's biggest parenting site called Netmums. So you think that would make me a parenting expert, right?
Wrong! More and more, I believe parenting experts and childcare gurus are a scourge on modern mums, with a combination of one-size-fits all, conflicting advice that creates expectations that we - and certainly our babies - can never live up to. This leads to guilt, anxiety or, in my case, even depression as I felt I was failing at the most important job I have ever done.
A terrified me with my precious first born
And though scores of experts have been touting every type of advice for more than 70 years, I still see mums everywhere agonising about their children. So the advice clearly isn't working.
And worse still, it's not about making happy families - it's all about making money. Last year stressed out UK families spent a staggering £1.1bn on parenting books, with an enormous 83,835 titles from parenting experts on sale the UK.
A small selection from my bookcase
But what none of them tell you is that there are really only ten things you need to know to get parenting right. Here are my ten tips no parenting expert will ever share - or they'll be out of business. And you can have them for free!
1. Breast or Bottle? As long as your baby is putting on weight based on the growth charts, you've got the feeding right.
2. Can't Get No Sleep? Newborns are exhausting but there is no way around this. By all means try sleep training methods, controlled crying or co-sleeping - but while it will work on some tots, it won't on others. I know, all three of mine were different in how they reacted to everything. Just remember this phase won't last forever. Meanwhile, there's always chocolate and coffee to get you through.
3. Mums Need Mates: Baby talk is boring if you don't have one and your child-free friends won't want to know. For proper support, you need mummy mates. It's vital to find good mum friends to chat about the ages and stages of childrearing and reassure each other things are OK. But be prepared to make the first move, in real life or online. Some of my best mum friends I met simply by saying hello by the swings at the local park.
4. Work It Out: Whether you stay at home or go out to work - through choice or necessity - it doesn't matter. Love your child, be as happy as you can and don't do guilt. I've done both, it worked out fine both ways. Whatever you choose, remember you are always a full-time mum to your child and the only one they ever need.
5. IQ Quandary: At some point you will think your child is a genius - but at another you'll worry he could have developmental delay. Neither is likely to be true.
6. Managing child behavior is an art not a science: From the terrible two's to the teens, good parenting means balancing keeping your child safe against giving them the freedom to grow and learn. Where you draw that line is your decision. Being consistent is important - but so is being able to occasionally let it go for the bigger picture. If your child has behaviours you don't like, the hardest part is taking a very honest look at how you do things in your household. Could it be a case of do as I say not as I do?
7. Child vs Food: Cooking for your child is serving up love on plate - so you'll feel rejected if he won't eat whether he's a fussy eater or having a food fad. So my trick is pretending I'm relaxed about it, dishing up food on platters with lots of different tastes and textures as letting the kids help themselves. Food should be fun, not a battleground.
8. Making the Grade? Modern schooling and exam pressures are stressful for your child - and for you. There's no doubt grades are important but help your child build good manners, friendships, confidence and self esteem over perfect projects and A* grades, as these are the only skills that will help them in every walk of life.
9. Mummy Wars: No matter what the so-called experts tell you, there's no 'right way'. Every child is different; no family has the same story. Don't compare, don't judge. Every single mum you ever see was a new mum once and no one ever finds it easy. No one is better at it than you.
10. Finally - Embrace It. When you're suffering endless nights feeding a baby, stressful days with preschoolers, or long evenings worrying where your teenager is, a single day can seem to last forever. But it goes by all too quickly. Find a special moment in each day and treasure it. However hard the job is, we are privileged to be parents and are the luckiest people in the world.
"My, how you've grown"