Olessia Lapina

How to Overcome Parental Guilt: With Olessia Lapina

As both a parent and a business leader, experiencing guilt as a result of a busy schedule is common. Parental guilt tends to happen because high-achieving parents feel as though they need to do everything, and do it perfectly — they want to succeed at work, succeed in raising children, and succeed as reliable friends, family members and romantic partners. 

This kind of mentality leads many parents feeling despondent, burnt out and guilty that they can’t constantly show up as their best selves for their kids, spouse or community. Instead of succeeding at everything (which is impossible), these parents start to withdraw, neglect their surroundings and wish for a better sense of work-life balance. 

But with all of the many roles, responsibilities and distractions that make up our lives, how do we — the overworked, overtired parents of the world — actually achieve a semblance of balance? 

The secret is that we shouldn’t. Instead of looking at life like a balancing act, it helps to reconceptualize the way we live our lives… with all their many ups, downs and in-betweens.

Overcoming parental guilt about balance

A lot of parents who work high-stress jobs feel like they’re doing a disservice to their kids by not being present enough. And that may be true — even with “flexible” work schedules such as a 10 AM to 4 PM schedule, or a flexible work-from-home arrangement, the workload associated with a high-profile job can keep many of us away from our children during a formative period in their lives. 

Instead of finding balance, however, it might be worth looking into alternative solutions. That’s because “balance” as a concept sounds great on paper, but it’s not actually as exciting as most of us think. Think about it: when two kids are on a playground and they’re both sitting on a seesaw in perfect balance, what happens? 

Nothing. Nothing happens, because they’re in balance. And that kind of idle balance can be good sometimes, but is a lifetime of idleness what any of us want? Clearly not — if we did, we wouldn’t be high-achieving parents. 

Instead of looking for a lifetime of balance, what we should instead be focusing on is the fortitude, resilience and gumption to enjoy the thrill of a bumpy ride. Because life’s a bumpy ride, isn’t it? And there may be ways to put up some “guard rails” or “shock absorbers” that mitigate some of those bumps, but the truth is that we can’t ever get rid of all of them. It’s like riding on a plane: even if you’re the pilot, you can’t stop turbulence from happening here and there. 

So, rather than looking for balance, let’s instead look at ways to think differently about our roles and responsibilities as executives and parents. Specifically, let’s tackle the guilt associated with having an “unbalanced” life, and the desire to fit the roles we’ve been told we need to fill. 

Reexamining our roles as parents

If you’re the parent of a child whom you feel the need to be present for at every single step of their life, chances are high that you might have some unhealthy beliefs formed through guilt. These kinds of beliefs are evident in statements such as:

  • “I need to be everything for my child.”
  • “My child won’t grow up okay if I don’t show them how.” 
  • “Other parents will judge me if I take breaks.”
  • “I should be the most important thing in my child’s life at all times.”

While thoughts like these might sound rational, they can actually be harmful to the development of your child — after all, healthy children are raised by healthy parents, and raising your child out of guilt isn’t a healthy way to look at parenting. That’s a lose-lose scenario for both you and your kid. 

Instead of tackling parenting from a balance perspective, it pays to tackle it from a thinking perspective. Addressing these kinds of thoughts and creating newer, healthier ones will help you become the kind of parent you need to be for your child. 

In short, this is your permission to step back, reassess and take things slower. And the way to do that is by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • “What resources are available to me as a parent that could make my life easier?”
  • “Do I have to do this all by myself?”
  • “Do I need to pretend to have my life together one hundred percent of the time?”
  • “If my business is less productive because I want to spend more time with my child, would that be the worst thing in the world?”
  • “Is my guilt concrete? Or is it self-imposed?”
  • “What happens when I release myself from my guilt? Is that better for my mental health?”

These questions are all aimed at helping you realize something central about guilt: holding it in and using it against yourself is akin to picking up a stick and beating yourself with it. When that happens — when you beat yourself up — are you better or worse at doing all the things you need to do in your life?

Clearly, you’re worse off. Being battered and bruised is no way to parent, nor is it a way to show up as your truest self for others in your life. That’s why my advice is simple: put down the stick and live your life. 

That way, you can live a cool, engaging and exciting life void of guilt for not being at 100 percent all of the time. And when that cool, exciting life gets a little overwhelming… you can always ask yourself, “What resources are available to me right now? How can I think a little differently about this situation so that I can invite more fun and excitement into my life, instead of stress and worry?” 

Hopefully that sticks with you. If you want more advice on relinquishing parental guilt, come chat with me.  

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Kim Ades: Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching and the Co-founder of The Journal That Talks Back. You have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching Podcast, where we invite leaders from all over the world to get coached live and in person, right on the show.

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce to my guest. Her name is Olessia Lapina, and she comes to us from Toronto. Olessia, welcome.

[00:00:31] Olessia Lapina: Thank you so much, it's such a pleasure to be here. Very excited to be a part of the podcast. I've listened to a few of your episodes, so very excited to be coached.

[00:00:40] Kim Ades: Good, amazing. So tell us a little bit about you. You're in Toronto. What are you doing? What are you up to? Just give us-- are you married? Do you have kids? Just give us a little bit of...

[00:00:50] Olessia Lapina: Yes, yes, and yes. [Laughs]

[00:00:51] Kim Ades: ...An introduction to Olessia. Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely. So I am from Toronto, I've lived here most of my life, worked on building a successful career in Talent Acquisition and Human Resources. So to give you an overview, I've worked as the HR Business Partner for Tiffany and company, followed by being a Talent Acquisition Manager of North and Central America with Accor, which is the second largest hospitality company in the world.

[00:01:23] Olessia Lapina: "Acore", A C O R E?

[00:01:25] Kim Ades: A C C O R.

[00:01:27] Olessia Lapina: A C C O R.

[00:01:28] Kim Ades: Okay, good.

[00:01:29] Olessia Lapina: Yeah. So I was there for about five years when I had my baby and went on maternity leave.

[00:01:36] Kim Ades: Okay.

[00:01:36] Olessia Lapina: During wave one of COVID, which was very fun. And followed by that, I joined LVMH, so Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, as part of Benefit Cosmetics, and I was their HR leader for Canada. So most recently, about two months ago, I found that the demands of a successful career, and motherhood, really made me realign my expectations to myself and also just really rethink what I'm going to do in the future. So I decided to leave my job and start my own consulting company. So currently I am working on building my own business around HR and recruitment consulting.

[00:02:23] Kim Ades: Okay. I wanna go back for a minute and I just wanna ask you, when you were thinking about raising your kids and working, and you said "I was reconsidering everything", what was pressing on you? And the reason I'm asking is because right now in the world, there's this huge issue with respect to retention, how do we retain our talent.

And in your case, you are talented, you have a ton of experience, but at the same time you said, "well, hold on a minute. There's something pressing on me that isn't working for me". What was that exactly?

[00:03:03] Olessia Lapina: You know, definitely that word "balance" comes to mind, right?

[00:03:07] Kim Ades: Yeah.

[00:03:07] Olessia Lapina: And I'll be completely honest, I was very lucky. I had an incredibly flexible leader, who really had a lot of understanding and tried to provide balance. That being said, I think just the work landscape is shifting overall. And for me, I found it very hard to be a part of what is considered flexible for a corporation.

So when a corporation offers you flexibility, that means starting work at 10 and not 9, leaving work at 4 and not 5, for example. That being said, with my specific career and my profession, COVID added an extra layer of work on top of what I was already doing.

So I found just the demand of the job and the... I don't wanna say expectation, but the need to log back on in order to be good at my job and to fulfill my obligations there, made it very tough to balance raising a toddler, also being a wife, finding time for myself, and having outside interests, obviously.

[00:04:25] Kim Ades: So let me translate, and I think it's important. You're saying "even though they allowed me to start at 10 and end at 4, there was this unspoken expectation that I would come back after dinner at some point, log in and do another hour, two, three of work".

[00:04:41] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:04:42] Kim Ades: Okay. So in other words, "yes, it was flexible, but the demands were still super high, and my actual hours of work were too much for my lifestyle".

[00:04:53] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, and I think that's different for everybody and everyone has different priorities. And I think, again, I was very lucky to work for a company that was very flexible. Like, if I needed time off, it was never an issue, work from home, never an issue. I just found that for me, even with that, it wasn't working anymore.

[00:05:13] Kim Ades: Right. So you still had all this work that had to get done, even if they allowed you to do it when you wanted to do it, it was still you're like, I don't wanna work so many hours every day.

[00:05:24] Olessia Lapina: Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, I wanted more freedom of flexibility to work from where I want [chuckles] which was really important to me, I think it is for many people after COVID. It was also important for me to take more time off than generally companies allow.

[00:05:42] Kim Ades: Yeah.

[00:05:44] Olessia Lapina: Although, again, the vacation flexibility at my last company was unbelievably generous. But, again, it was just not on my own terms and I think I was ready for things to be a little bit more on my own terms.

[00:05:58] Kim Ades: Okay. So we're here now. You've been running your own company for... How long?

[00:06:03] Olessia Lapina: Two months! [Laughs]

[00:06:04] Kim Ades: Two months. And how's it going?

[00:06:06] Olessia Lapina: It's going great! A little bit faster paced than I imagined, to be honest.

[00:06:12] Kim Ades: Okay.

[00:06:13] Olessia Lapina: I never thought that things would go as quickly. I thought I would have a lot of trouble finding new clients.

[00:06:22] Kim Ades: Yeah.

[00:06:23] Olessia Lapina: Which so far, without advertising, I've been very blessed. My old networks are coming through and just connecting me with people, and there seems to be a very high demand for the services that I'm able to offer. So that question of balance is kind of coming back at me right now.

[00:06:44] Kim Ades: Yeah. Okay. So we're gonna move into your greatest challenge. And are you saying to me that your greatest challenge is finding balance?

[00:06:54] Olessia Lapina: I think yes. Balance in terms of feeling fulfilled, like, I am continuing to work on myself and my career and moving forward, but also not neglecting my role as a mother, which is my number one priority.

[00:07:11] Kim Ades: Yeah.

[00:07:12] Olessia Lapina: I think it's hard to feel like you're doing good at both at the same time. [Laughs]

[00:07:18] Kim Ades: Okay. How old-- You have one child?

[00:07:20] Olessia Lapina: I have one child and she's two years old.

[00:07:23] Kim Ades: Okay, two years old. And is she a happy child?

[00:07:27] Olessia Lapina: I think so. Yes. [Laughs]

[00:07:28] Kim Ades: Okay. What's her name?

[00:07:30] Olessia Lapina: Her name is Paulina.

[00:07:31] Kim Ades: Paulina. Love that. Okay. So I wanna talk about balance, and those of you who have heard me on this podcast have heard me talk about balance, but I wanna dig in a little bit deeper. So people believe that the goal is balance. Okay? That's what they think, "I'm after balance".

But let's really look at balance and I'm gonna use an analogy. If you see two kids at a playground, right? They're in a park and they're on a seesaw, teeter totter, and they're in perfect balance. What's happening?

[00:08:06] Olessia Lapina: It doesn't move.

[00:08:08] Kim Ades: It doesn't move. And so, amazing to have moments of balance, it's not amazing to have a lifetime of balance. Right? So why do you go on the teeter totter? 'Cause it's fun, right? It's fun to go up and down, the ride is fun. And what we're really looking for is not this perfect balance at all times of our lives, we're looking for like a breath now and then, right? A moment of balance, maybe an hour of balance.

We're not looking for a lifetime of balance. What we're really looking for is the fortitude, the resilience, the mindset, the attitude to enjoy the ride. And what happens often is we don't have that. What we have is resistance to the ride.

We're like, "oh my God, it's too high! Oh my God, it's too low! Oh my God, the bump is hurting! Oh my God, I'm gonna fall off!" Right? And when we have resistance, all we want is stillness. But once we're at that state of stillness, we're like, "well, this is boring". Right? Like, "I need more action in my life".

[00:09:08] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:09:09] Kim Ades: And so, this concept of balance is really misunderstood by a lot of people. And so really when people say to me, "what I'm looking for is balance", I understand that very differently, and what I'm understanding is that what's required is for people to think differently about their roles and responsibilities, for people to think differently about what they need in order to have a really fulfilling, exciting, engaging life. Okay? So what I heard you say is, "I feel guilt". You didn't exactly say that, but you sort of did.

[00:09:44] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely, Kim. I think you described, I guess, what I would be ultimately seeking perfectly. And I do recognize that it is, as you said, an alternating balance, I guess.

[00:10:01] Kim Ades: Yes.

[00:10:01] Olessia Lapina: But yes, absolutely. I mean, you feel guilt, especially as a mom, I think that's a feeling that you always try to work on letting go.

[00:10:09] Kim Ades: Right. So when we feel guilt it's because we believe we should be doing something or we're not doing enough of something, right? Like we're falling short somehow. Right? We should be doing something that we're not, or we should not be doing something that we are. Right? That's what guilt is.

And so what I encourage people to do is think a little bit differently about their roles and their responsibilities. So in your case, you're a mother and mothers get really, really trapped in this, they believe they need to be everything for their children.

[00:10:45] Olessia Lapina: [Laughs]

[00:10:46] Kim Ades: "I'm the be all and end all for my children". Right? "And I'm the one responsible and nobody else can step in", and I will say this, and this is very important for you to realize that healthy kids are brought up by healthy parents.

[00:11:03] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:11:04] Kim Ades: And guilt is not healthy. Right? And so--

[00:11:09] Olessia Lapina: I love that. Yeah.

[00:11:10] Kim Ades: Right? And so when you bring your guilt to your mothering, your daughter's not winning and you're not winning. You're not building a happy home. When you're doing things out of obligation, it's not working.

And so what I would encourage you to ask yourself is, "what does my daughter really want? What does my daughter really need? And what do I need?" And when I ask you, "what do I need?" I'm asking you two things.

I'm asking you, what do you need personally and professionally? Right? What does Olessia want for herself? And what does she want for herself as a mother? And I would say to you that you have a bunch of beliefs in there that come from maybe your upbringing or your background, or the way you think mothering should be, that are a little bit muddled up, that require you to deliver more and be more to your child than is healthy for you and is more than she maybe even needs.

[00:12:15] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:12:17] Kim Ades: And so when somebody says "I'm struggling 'cause I don't have enough balance", I think of that as a thinking problem. It's not a time problem. It's not a "let's see how many things we can do on Thursdays versus Tuesdays". It's not a time management problem, it's not even a problem of priorities. It's a thinking problem.

And by thinking what I'm really saying is we each, me too, you have some beliefs around what you must do, and I would encourage you to identify some of those beliefs and say, "Hey, is it true that I must do these things in order to be a good mother? Must I be the one who always feed her? Must I be the one who always picks her up from daycare? Must I be the one who always puts her to bed at night? Must I be the one who...?"

So you're looking at all the musts, and the flip side of that is also true. When you look at your business and you look about at growing your business, "must I be the one who delivers all the service? Must I be the one who gets all the business? Must I be the one who does the accounting and the bookkeeping in addition to everything else I'm doing? Must I be the one...?

[00:13:33] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, I completely resonate with what you're saying. I definitely find that there's also a societal pressure on even someone who is starting her own business of people reaching out even two months in and saying, you know, "how's it going? How is your business going?"

And it puts a lot of pressure on you to say "it's going amazing and I have so many clients", when in reality, you know, although I have been lucky to get clients, that's not the reality for most people. I think it takes at least like a year or a couple years to get your business off the ground. But I agree with you.

[00:14:14] Kim Ades: Let me give you more reality. There are some people who have been running their businesses for 5, 10, 15, 20 years who still struggle with not enough clients. So, what you just said, perhaps is a society pressure, but it's one that you are taking on.

[00:14:29] Olessia Lapina: Yes.

[00:14:30] Kim Ades: It's one that you are making real. And so...

[00:14:33] Olessia Lapina: Yes.

[00:14:33] Kim Ades: You know, it's not that I'm giving you permission to struggle. I'm not, but I'm giving you permission to be okay with a slower pace. And I'm giving you permission to say, hey, you don't have to be wonder woman.

And I'm giving you permission to say, "what are the resources available to me out there that could help me? As I raise my daughter and as I raise my business. I don't have to be the one to do it all by myself, and I don't have to pretend to have it all together. And I don't have to like be skyrocketing my business on month two. And it's okay if I have a few good clients instead of 5,500". Right?

[00:15:19] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, I think what really resonates with me, Kim, what you're saying is the onus is on me to make that pressure real or not, which is making me think differently already,about some of the things that I've done and thought of.

[00:15:36] Kim Ades: Well, it's clear that what's happening here is that you're a person who has very high standards, who is very driven, who has high expectations, and you want everything to work at a very high level at all times.

[00:15:52] Olessia Lapina: [Laughs] Yeah, I have zero patience for waiting for things to happen. [Laughs]

[00:15:55] Kim Ades: Right. And so, what happens is that pressure that you feel, that guilt that you feel is all 100% self-imposed. and the guilt that you feel does not actually make you a better parent or a better business owner, it weighs you down, right?

Because when you have guilt, what are you doing? And I tell my clients all the time, when you have guilt, you're holding up a stick. And what do you do with that stick? You beat yourself up with the stick. And so when you're beating yourself up, are you better able to cope with the demands of your business? No. 'Cause you're battered and bruised.

When you're holding up a stick and beating yourself up, are you a more compassionate, patient mother? Absolutely not.

[00:16:47] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:16:48] Kim Ades: Right? So you need to put down the stick. And we're not after balance, we're after an engaging cool, exciting life. And when we feel a little overwhelmed, we need to ask ourselves a question, "what resources can I tap into that will help me reduce the overwhelm?" Right? "How can I think about this differently--"

[00:17:09] Olessia Lapina: That's amazing.

[00:17:10] Kim Ades: "How can I think about this differently so that it feels more fun again? What would I like to take off my plate a little bit? What would I like to add onto my plate? What needs to be done that somebody else could do? I don't need to do it all. I don't need to be Wonder Woman in this lifetime".

[00:17:27] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, that definitely shifts my perspective a lot, I must say. [Laughs]

[00:17:34] Kim Ades: Amazing. That's what I'm after.

[00:17:37] Olessia Lapina: That's great. Well, thank you so much for that.

[00:17:39] Kim Ades: So if people want your services, what services do you provide and how do they find you?

[00:17:45] Olessia Lapina: Yeah, so I'm actually in the middle of registering my business right now. I am on LinkedIn, so under Olessia Lepina, so they can reach out to me there. I also run a blog under Olessia Lepina on Instagram, so that's another way to contact me.

But I offer HR consulting, I offer consulting for people also seeking employment. I've been working with a lot of Ukrainian refugees lately that are coming to Canada and helping them, as well as some other mothers that are getting back out there after mat leave.

But on the corporate side, everything from Talent Acquisition to Employer Branding, to Investigations, Diversity and Inclusion. I mean, I've done it all. So if you're a small business and you're looking for support, I'm definitely able to offer them in a lot of spheres.

[00:18:41] Kim Ades: Amazing. So look for Olessia on LinkedIn, we will provide her name in our show notes. But Olessia, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast.

[00:18:50] Olessia Lapina: Thank you!

[00:18:51] Kim Ades: We wish you incredible success and happiness and ease as you grow your business, and as you grow your children! Maybe they'll be one more after this, we don't know, but enjoy the process. Enjoy the process.

[00:19:05] Olessia Lapina: Thank you so much.

[00:19:07] Kim Ades: And for those of you who are listening, if you have a challenge that you wanna share with us on the podcast, please reach out to me. My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com. And in the meantime, please like, please share, please send us some feedback on what you think of the podcast, we'd love to hear your thoughts! And we will see you next time. Have a great week, everyone!

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