IN THE MAIL: Caitlin Flanagan’s new book, To Hell with All That : Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. I’m at something of a loss to see why so many lefties hate her so much. But what struck me in reading the book, with its comparison of housekeeping and childrearing from 30 years ago with the same today is how much harder people have made both.

We keep hearing about declining birthrates, but raising a kid is far more expensive — financially, emotionally, and in terms of time — today than it was a few decades ago. As she occasionally notes, things that were considered adequate, or even exemplary, parenting then are now considered abuse or neglect. In fact, when you look at how the burden of childrearing has increased, it seems amazing that we see as many people having children as we do.

Society would be a lot better off (emotionally and demographically) if it would cut parents more slack on this stuff, though as she notes, much of the pressure is the result of competitiveness among parents, particularly mothers.

As evidence that kids can turn out fine despite all sorts of parenting – and as evidence that the latest fads and pronouncements of experts are often bunk — Flanagan’s book should be read together with James Lileks’ Mommy Knows Worst : Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice. Happily, Amazon recommends the two together, a recommendation that, if followed, may do more to improve American society than many government programs.