On a good day, being a parent can be the best thing that's ever happened to you. Most parents will tell you that, despite the frustrations, being a mum or dad is one of the great joys in life.
But the image of parenting presented in the media can be alarmingly wide of the mark – and never more so than in books and magazine articles about pregnancy, showing smiling, confident women wearing fashionable outfits and strolling out to their gym class without a care in the world.
Fortunately, if your experience of pregnancy is more like mine (nine months of exhaustion, bad skin and not being able to watch a TV commercial without crying) then there are bloggers who feel your pain. Circus Queen is the story of Adele's first pregnancy, and over the past nine months has captured every high, and low.
Being pregnant when you already have a toddler can be a brand new experience again – as the bloggers who write A Place of my Own, I Heart Motherhood and Simply Hayley have found. Their accounts of coping with toddler tantrums and morning sickness at the same time will cheer and comfort you if you're in the same boat.
What's more challenging than having a second baby? How about having a fourth? Is There a Plan B? already has three girls and is expecting a fourth – which would be difficult enough without having just moved 350 miles to the other end of the country!
It isn't just pregnancy that challenges us as parents. Once our children are born, sometimes, life can become much harder than we ever imagined. There are thousands of families in the UK dealing with disability, bereavement, unemployment and loss – and when you are facing those kind of challenges, it can be difficult to know where to turn for advice and support.
For many parents, blogging provides a great way to cope during difficult times. Typing out your feelings can sometimes be easier than finding the words to speak out loud, and blogs can be as anonymous as you choose to make them.
Many of the finalists in this year's MAD Blog Awards have used their blogs to share deeply personal stories about family breakdown (Sleep is for the Weak) or raising children with special needs (Doing it all for Aleyna). These stories are moving, but more than that, the blogs have become powerful online communities, where families sharing similar experiences can share ideas and advice, and support one another.
A Boy with Asperger's is an inspiring account of life with three children, one of whom has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. This blog is fantastic at dispelling myths about children on the autistic spectrum, as well as providing advice and information about how to support children and get them the resources and services they so desperately need. Another great resource for families dealing with autism is Soft Thistle, the story of single Mum Marylin, who lives in Scotland with her two sons, one of whom has autism.
A terrifying number of babies are born prematurely in the UK each year, and it's often hard for new parents to know where to turn. Not even a bag of sugar is a story of hope, following a baby born at just 27 weeks, who is now growing into a happy, healthy toddler. Mum Kylie campaigns tirelessly to increase awareness of pre-eclampsia and her site is a brilliant source of information for worried parents.
One of the hardest things for any parent to live through is the pain of losing a child, but Emily at More than Just a Mother and Merry at Patch of Puddles have used their blogs to share their stories of heartbreak, and how their families have learned to live with the grief and loss that comes when a baby dies. The blogs make for painful reading, but have brought enormous support and comfort to other bereaved families.