How to win Parent of The Year ...
I CAN remember one night, during my one-millionth feed time for that night, rocking a baby back to sleep, staring out the window at a tiny light left on in another person's house.
I imagined there was a person, like myself, looking back at our little night-light and feeling united in our lonely, never-ending vigil of feeding a newborn.
That endlessly hungry baby turns 11 this year.
But that night, it felt like I was going to spend forever timing my life around two-hourly feeds.
I take myself back to that time whenever a stage of parenting is repeating on me, whenever I find myself thinking if they argue/whine/lose their shoes one more time, I am liable to have a nervous breakdown.
But it's all just a stage.
No sooner do you figure out how to handle it (or become skilled at ignoring it) than it morphs into a new, completely foreign problem.
I don't want to write down my laundry list of issues we've had to deal with over the years - it's only going to exhaust you and I - but sometimes you need reminding how much you have already overcome as a parent.
Managed to level up to four-hourly feeds? Got them to stop using a dummy? Convinced them to eat a vegetable? Finally toilet trained? Managed their eczema/teething/reflux/ nose-picking?
It all takes effort that should be recognised but mostly isn't.
It's just what you do as a parent.
Parents ought to have their own reward chart - gold stickers for every time the kids started fighting in the car and you didn't spin around and take your eyes off the road.
A tick if you reasoned dinnertime with delicate negotiation skills instead of shouts.
Some applause if you're bashing out your work in between nappy changes and toddler tantrums.
Hell, even if you think you're not doing so great a job - whether you have screamed at your children but they are still fed, bathed and sleeping soundly - well you're worthy of a merit certificate.
Because while we may not always smash it as parents, we're mostly trying to do our best by our small people.
Case in point, I just hunted my three outside to play chase (since they had thought doing it through my office while I worked was an option).
Doing that required some gentle persuasion that I am sure the neighbours heard.
Once back inside, trying to finish a column about how difficult parenting can be, I had a moment of overwhelm (read: tears).
Am I being too hard on them? Isn't being outdoors good for them, even if it purely serves my selfish purposes? Shouldn't I be glad they were playing instead of fighting?
Where is the bloody manual for all of this?!
Parenting is hard. Parenting can be downright difficult sometimes. Parenting can be thankless. Parenting can make us question whether we are good people or not.
Compounding this pressure are our online lives, glossing over the imperfect feelings and thoughts we have.
So I admit defeat - maybe I'm not a great parent, but I am parenting. That still counts.
No sooner have I pulled myself up by the bootstraps than one returns inside to inform me they have diarrhoea.
Parent of The Year goes to ...
Peta Jo is an author, mother of three and eternally tired. You can visit her on Facebook.