One of the problems with modern parenting is the lack of time afforded to yourself. You read parenting manuals and they effectively say devote every living hour to being the best parent possible. Gina Ford will tell you how to structure your day (no chance to divert to the bookshop on her schedule) and so forth. They all say things like 'make sure you have time to yourself, time as a couple'. I find this laughable.
Unless you are fairly well off and not stretched financially and can therefore afford the cost of a babysitter to any trip out (around here that makes a cinema trip at least sixty quid), have family close by who don't have much to do themselves or the kids are old enough to look after themselves you are stuffed. I'm not sure that we actually even went out as a couple on our own last year even once. I'm positive you could count the number of times we have been out as a couple in the evening since we had kids on one persons fingers.
I think there is probably a parenting manual on this somewhere. If not maybe i'll write one. It came as no surprise to me to read this week of two parenting manuals designed specifically for understanding and dealing with girls. Girls are the new boys apparently with a whole series of neurosis that need to be dealt with and understood. My feeling at the moment is that if parents weren't so utterly exhausted by the demands of modern day parenting on themselves both physically and mentally they might be better places to deal with the demands of their children without the needs for manuals and so forth.
In the past there was a big support network of neighbours, family and friends. Children played outside in the street they learnt lots of interpersonal and educational skills these ways. They learnt about life. Nowadays they learn this through the media, school and through parents alone who are trying to replicate stuff. By this I mean for example, toy kitchens rather than letting them empty out your cupboards and actually cook on your cooker. I'm not sure whether parents had more time to themselves or not, but I feel fairly confident that they probably could cook a decent dinner without having a child demand constant attention. That would be a start.