The post on "mother drive-bys" at Chez Miscarriage is now up to over 300 comments and still growing. It's funny and sad and bizarre.
I've gotten my share of comments about my parenting, but I've never taken them too seriously. When D was a newborn, we were given two baby books: What to Expect The First Year and The Baby Book. These two books agree that you should use a car seat and that breastmilk is the ideal food for babies, and disagree on just about everything else. This drove me crazy for a few weeks, and then I had the liberating insight that no matter what we did, someone would say we were doing it wrong. So there was no point in trying to do it perfectly -- we just had to do our best and accept that even so, we'd get criticized by strangers (or family) occasionally.
I think that's the key insight that the miserable stressed-out parents Judith Warner talked to are missing -- that no matter how hard you work at it, there's no such thing as perfect parenting. If you're a good parent, you what you think is best, but sometimes your best just isn't good enough, or what you thought was the best turns out in hindsight to look like a mistake.
There's a Jewish tradition that you're supposed to carry a slip of paper with a message in each pocket. On one side, you carry "You were created in God's image" and on the other side, you carry "You came from dust, and to dust you shall return." When you get depressed you look at the first, and when you get cocky you look at the second.
I think the parenting version of this is that on one side you carry the start of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care: "Relax. You know more than you think you do," and on the other side you carry the start of Philip Larkin's This be the verse: "They fuck you up, your mom and dad/ They may not mean to, but they do."