I NEVER set out to be a subversive mother. But from the moment I became pregnant, two things became clear. Parenting has become politicised to the point that every little thing you do, from what you consume in pregnancy to what you feed your children, is accorded monumental importance and construed as a broader statement about yourself and your beliefs. And the ideal of so-called "good parenting" is both impossible to achieve and undesirable. If you spend your life jumping through hoops to meet the approval of parenting professionals and their contradictory advice, you lose sight of what is really important - your life, and that of your family.

Mummy chat these days frequently revolves around the guilt we feel about doing the wrong thing by our children - letting them eat chocolate or watch telly, for example - and the resentment we feel because, in fact, we don't really think these things are wrong at all. In a recent survey by the charity Children 1st, one in six parents reported "significant difficulties" caused by the pressure society puts on them about how they raise their kids. We want to trust ourselves to make decisions about how we bring up our children, and we want the privacy and freedom to do it. You might not think such a simple desire is subversive - but in today's era of perfect parenting, it is. Because we are treated like idiots From government advice to popular culture, parents today are treated like selfish, simple-minded fools who neither know nor care what is best for their children - right from the start. Look at the debacle over official guidelines for drinking during pregnancy. Earlier this year, the UK Department of Health (DH) warned pregnant women and "those trying to conceive" to avoid alcohol in pregnancy altogether (rather than consume a couple of units a week if they had to). The DH admitted that its new guidance was not based on new scientific evidence; it simply wanted to provide "stronger, consistent advice". In other words - women are too stupid to understand the difference between drinking the odd glass of wine and getting drunk out of their minds every night. Now, the government's National Institute of Clinical Excellence has advised that pregnant women can drink up to 1.5 units per day, so long as it's after the first three months.

Given that the answer to the question of how much alcohol it is safe to drink in pregnancy seems to be a resounding "don't know", why do official agencies persist in issuing confusing, contradictory but always highly prescriptive advice about exactly how big a glass of wine pregnant women are "allowed"? The only explanation can be that the wise souls in government do not trust women to carry a pregnancy without behaving like binge-drinking teenagers. They want to make it clear that parenthood is a deeply serious pursuit, and before even thinking about bringing a child into the world, we need to knuckle down and behave like healthy-living good mums and dads.

Well: newsflash! We know parenthood is a serious pursuit. It is women (not politicians) who physically carry a child for nine months, attending our check-ups, tending our heartburn, managing morning sickness in the office toilets and resting swollen ankles after the commute home. It is parents (not politicians) who deal with the financial cost of raising a new family, the sleepless nights and demands for attention, who love our children and feed them and keep them safe. We do not need to be told every step of the way what to eat in pregnancy, or what to feed our children in infancy and toddlerhood.

The impact of the advice that the government puts into our heads is more harmful than anything a pregnant women might put into her mouth. It induces an incredible amount of guilt, and makes you feel unfit to be a parent - before the baby is even born. And as a friend of mine recently remarked, if you have a "less than perfect" child, the guilt is tremendous: "You always think, Was it something I did?', even when you know it is not."

Thankfully, now that my children are aged one and three, I don't have to worry about drinking in pregnancy / breastfeeding for six months / making sure I "bond" properly with my new baby. But as school age approaches, the deluge of official information and intervention becomes more intense. As my husband and I grapple with that apparently all-important decision about which primary to choose, it becomes clear that the state's responsibility for how our children turn out stops short at telling us what to do.

When I was a child in the 1980s, it was the state's responsibility to provide schooling (however imperfect), and parents' responsibility to manage everyday family life. But now, the government freely admits (in the words of one policy document): "For children of primary school age, parental involvement - particularly in the form of good parenting in the home - has the biggest impact on their achievement and adjustment. The effect is greater than that of the school itself."

The other day, I took part in a local council survey on the public amenities in my town. Some of the questions were straightforward - what I thought about the local parks, busy roads and leisure facilities. The next thing I knew, I was being quizzed on how often I read books to my children, and whether I thought there was enough "information" about parenting available. On every level, it seems that the distinction between public, social projects that the state should organise and private family life is being blurred.

Officials are convinced that parents not only need more "information", "advice" and "support" in parenting, but that this is what we want.

In justifying its new National Parenting Academy, government ministers have used the popularity of Channel Four's Supernanny programme, where the formidable-but-cuddly Jo Frost teaches parents how to sort out their offspring's terrible behaviour and broadcasts it as evidence of how much parents want to be taught to parent. Indeed, as Louise Casey, who runs the government's Respect agenda, has bluntly put it: "Look at the viewing figures for Supernanny. There's no shortage of people who want to be bossed around a bit."

Well, I don't want to be bossed around - and many of those surveyed by Children 1st seem equally fed up with the blaming and nagging. There is a world of difference between watching a TV programme to pick up some tips and having every aspect of your family life held up to official scrutiny. Let's be honest about parenting. Bringing up a child is not rocket science, and most people do it rather well. Politicians should stop letting themselves off the hook, by blaming parents for every social problem under the sun. For our part, parents need to have a bit more faith in themselves, and tell the supernanny state to back off.

Jennie Bristow is a writer, editor and mother-of-two. Next Sunday, she will debate the subject of Demonising Parenting at the Battle Of Ideas conference, London www.battleofideas.org.uk