It's easy to mock New York magazine's recent article on "why parents hate parenting." So many of its points seem obvious: Children decrease romance between spouses, diminish one's social life, and can be unholy terrors. (Jennifer Senior, its author, relates an awful-sounding interlude in which her son dismantled a wooden garage and then proceeded to pelt her with the pieces of it as she made repairs.) Still, there's one conclusion Senior makes that merits a bit of skepticism. She suggests that the hatred of parenting is recent, and raises "the possibility that parents don't much enjoy parenting because the experience of raising children has fundamentally changed." In some important ways, it has. But the complaints raised by the piece aren't new at all; in fact, people—women, most notably—have been voicing them for the better part of the last 60 years.
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir wrote of the mother who finds that "her child by no means provides that happy self-fulfillment that has been promised her." Instead, when this woman is busy, and "particularly when she is occupied with her husband," she finds that "the child is merely harassing and bothersome. She has no leisure for 'training' him; the main thing is to prevent him from getting into trouble; he is always breaking or tearing or dirtying and is a constant danger to objects and to himself." Adrienne Rich opened her 1976 book on motherhood, Of Woman Born, with one of her own journal entries, in which she noted that her children "cause [her] the most exquisite suffering... the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness." Later in the book, she would go on to argue that a mother of eight who dismembered her two youngest children and laid them on the lawn as "a sacrifice" was not precisely crazy, just fed up.