It seems to me that most parents are just doing the best they can with what they know how. But yet, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on us from the media! And guilt from many sources.
I read of a study in the UK about breastfeeding. It turns out women who are not able to breastfeed feel guilty that it's not possible (for whatever reason). This tremendous guilt may be worse for the moms and their babies than the benefits of breastmilk. This is a very contraversial topic - I can't find the original article that talked about a mother's guilt over not breastfeeding. The premise was that it might actually be worse for the baby if the mother suffers from PPD about not being able to nurse.
Another example is how much time a parent spends with their children. Turns out, parents now spend more time with their kids than they did in 1965.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/us/17kids.html?ex=1318737600&en=b84912d6795c16e7&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss 1965 was supposed to be back in the "good old days" where families came first.
I read a post on rfm about a mom who felt guilty that she had to have a c-section. Much has been debated about the US and whether or not c-sections are overused. What I will say though is if the life of the mother or the baby is in question - what a tremendous tool! If you save both lives and everyone is (relatively) healthy - it sounds like a win-win situation to me. Medical complications happen in birth.
No one likes to mention it - but birth is a life-threatening event. Even more reason that a woman should be able to choose whether or not they want to be a mother. Her life could be at stake.
Some parents are just not emotionally or physically capable of being parents (for whatever reason) and are not doing the best they can. There are stories throughout the news about these kinds of families. And it's a shame for everyone involved.
For the most part though - all the parents I know try to put their kids first. They worry about whether or not car seats are safe or if their kids watch too much tv. They try to keep their kids in a safe environment. They sacrifice their own time and pursuits for their kids.
We might make mistakes. I'll probably make some huge mistakes in the end. But I'm doing the best I can with what I know how. So bravo to all the well intentioned parents out there!