Kirsty Young has hit out at the "modern disease" of pushy parents who try to shape children into "baby Einsteins".
The Desert Island Discs presenter said people were preoccupied with children as an "extension of their own success".
In an article for the Radio Times she said children were being "funnelled" into "areas of achievement" like extra maths classes and Chinese lessons.
She accused women who gave up work to "do" children as justifying it by treating them as aspirational objects.
The 41-year-old presenter, who is making a four-part documentary series called The British Family for BBC2, said: "Most women don't have careers. They have jobs that they have to do to pay the electricity bill or buy school shoes.
"Choosing to work or not to work is the ultimate luxury and it's also a mark of how far women have come."
The programme attempts to explode the myth that the 1950s was a golden age for family life.
But she said that she was much more likely to question her ability as a parent now because it was "the temperature of the age".
She described how she had visited a nursery with her own mother where she had found three-year-olds doing improvement exercises.
She said: "My mum came with me and afterwards she asked me 'What did you think of that?'
"And I said 'If my child's not coming home covered in snot and poster paint, it's been a bad day at nursery.'
"The idea that they're going to come home and show me their jotters just makes me want to puke."
Parents are frequently encouraged to play a full role in their children's education.
Research has shown that schools with a high degree of parental involvement are more likely to succeed.
The British Family begins on Monday, January 11 at 9pm.