An essay by Brian McLaughlin, Advocate

Reframing Parental Instincts

I often hear folks say they have no regrets. Similarly I hear folks say; " you cannot miss what you never had". Me…I have plenty of regrets and, if I allow my thoughts to wander long, I find myself missing things I never had.

Both states can be harmful at their extremes I think.

I have often thought that the "no regrets/not longing" folks were engaging in a primitive form of denial or an advanced state of amnesia. Regretting and longing can be pretty painful so I don’t begrudge anyone’s attempt to protect themselves in this fashion. As for me, I have never been good at denial or amnesia.

While denial can be protective, I think it robs a person of opportunities to learn. At the same time, lingering or obsessing on regrets or longings can be unproductive, morbid and depressing.

Personally, the greatest regret and longing of my life is that I never had any children; a very common regret or human longing I suspect. I have put this regret to rest for the most part via another defense mechanism known as rationalization. In a therapeutic situation, what is to follow is known as "reframing".

I think to myself, while having children of my own might have been wonderful, I may have come up lacking as a parent. I know I could not have supported a child financially in the manner I was supported as a child. Further, I suspect I might have lacked that great patience shown me by my Father and Mother.

Not having children has given me the gift of freedom, time, and greater discretionary income, all of which I can commit to good works, philanthropy, and the study of issues impacting the community I live in. Among these issues are the needs of the children who are impoverished and/or homeless.

In this way I have discovered I need not be a father in the traditional sense to exercise my paternal instincts.

Perhaps one day I can join those with no regrets or longings…

Respectfully submitted for your consideration,

Brian Patrick McLaughlin MS/CPS
MH Consumer Advocate
Erie County, PA.

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