Guest: Coralee Beatty (she/her/hers)
With 1 Million women in construction, the topic of motherhood in our industry is just now taking shape. After chatting with many younger, female professionals in the industry, I learned many of you want to understand what it means to be a working mom in construction.
So, in this blog series, we will meet moms in architecture, engineering, and construction at all stages of motherhood.
Many people question if working mothers in construction can handle the physical and mental demands of the job. I will leave that answer up to you as we explore our guests’ experiences, challenges, and achievements in a male-dominated industry.
Meet Coralee Beatty, mother of 4! When I asked her my favorite interview question, here is what she shared:
“I’ve learned so much about myself in a very short period. Before very recently I would say I was a type “A” personality, very logical and structured. Thriving with routine and very habitual. Needing to be in control of everything.
A decision maker. A solutions seeker. A knowledge seeker. And that is all very true.
However, I learned recently that is not my natural tendency. My natural side is more giving, loving, compassionate, empathetic, caring.
I think until recently I saw these things as weaknesses in me and suppressed them for a lot of years. Oh the wisdom we gain with age…”
Professionally, Coralee is a business consultant, a fractional COO, a speaker, and a trainer in the construction industry. All of these roles fall under her business, ThriveHQ.
Prior to this business, she spent 25 years in the construction industry. She started off as a building envelope technician then moved on to run a trade business with her husband for 15 years.
Uncomfortable and Weird
“Entering motherhood was incredibly emotional for me.
I was not an overly emotional person to this point, so it was uncomfortable and weird, but I was so tired I just went with it. I cried when my baby cried, and I couldn’t get him to stop, which was a lot in the first few weeks.
I was underslept and lost as to what to do. I am a solutions-oriented person, and this was a realm I was completely ill-prepared to deal with. I did not have the tools necessary to figure it out. When I managed to get on a schedule and routine (where I thrive) everything became so much more manageable. He slept better, I slept better and that made all the difference.”
“Don’t I Make it Look Easy”: Finding Balance in the Trades and Being Pregnant
Coralee went full-steam ahead in both her professional and personal life. She became pregnant with her first child in 2005, while working for an engineering firm full-time and her own business part-time. The biggest thing she recalls about this timeframe was her exhaustion. She broke up her day-to-day tasks with plenty of naps.
She was able to perform most of her duties up until close to her delivery date. People were always concerned about her climbing scaffolding or strolling around on roofs at eight months pregnant, but she stayed mindful of her surroundings and balance.
Feeling hesitant about being that adventurous while pregnant? It’s ok. In hindsight, this is what Coralee said, “I’d like to say I wouldn’t have done anything unsafe, but that was a long time ago and ego was still a big part of how I operated. I’m grateful I didn’t have to be in a situation where I felt unsafe and make a call as to whether or not “I could do it”. My recommendation is to be smarter than I was, you have nothing to prove to anyone, and the most important thing is the health of you and your baby.”
Similar to Daniela, Coralee learned she had to give herself grace. Coralee had never experienced tiredness like that before.
She had to rest.
Between being an employee and a business owner, she prioritized sleep when she could because at night she had a hard time sleeping. She worked from home when she could because the commute was hard on my hips. Her site days didn’t change much with the exception that she was more mindful moving around.
Workplace and Childcare Support
Approaching the topic of pregnancy and maternity in the workplace is nerve-racking for many women in male-dominated industries. Coralee was no different.
It took her a while to broach the conversation with her managers. She felt insecure and concerned for her career. (Workplace Discrimination towards pregnant individuals and working mothers robs women of the joy of being their strong, capable selves as Tonia Rivers mentioned in our podcast episode here.)
She was very much in her own head, but luckily for her, she had a very supportive employer! But even with that support, she felt a lot of guilt for her leave. She ended up returning after 9 months of leave.
She is located in Canada, so at the time she had her kids, mothers received 12 months of partially paid leave. She was grateful because having worked in the US for a couple of years prior to kids, she knew, at the time, there were only six weeks of leave.
Coralee’s Experience by Trimester
“My pregnancies were all very “easy”, the biggest thing was being tired. I was a little nauseous but nothing that a few dry crackers or toast didn’t usually fix. Eating small meals frequently also helped. I remember reading somewhere that when you are pregnant, every day your body is doing the equivalent amount of work that it would do climbing a mountain. True or not, I don’t know, but I say rest and listen to your body.”
“With my first child, I had gestational diabetes, so that “honeymoon” trimester never materialized for me. I was still tired all the time and felt the jitters and heart palpitations – not realizing why until the test came back positive – then everything made sense. I cut out all sugar except a piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving – and immediately followed it with a walk. I did NOT want a large baby! He still turned out to be 9-1/2 pounds.”
“My frame is relatively small so there was a lot of discomfort because the baby took up so much space and often pushed on my ribs – I was sure one was going to pop!
Breathing was shallow as well because of the space the baby was taking up. I couldn’t exercise other than walk because of the shortness of breath. I was still tired often. Moving around and walking helped to minimize discomfort.
In the last few days before delivery, I experienced an issue with my sciatica – that was crazy. I used a compression belt around my hips as recommended by my physiotherapist. I can’t say if it helped because it didn’t go away, however, it didn’t get worse either.”
Coralee is a trailblazing mother and woman in construction.
Women like Coralee are paving the way for future generations and breaking down stereotypes that have held working moms back for years. With support from employers, family, and coworkers, mothers in construction are making history and proving that gender diversity in the workplace is not only possible but necessary.
Going through pregnancy is an uphill battle in some aspects. There is a learning curve emotionally, mentally, and physically. And it is ok. Take it a day at a time. Check your ego. And take those dang naps!
Thank you to Coralee for sharing your pregnancy experiences as an ambitious woman in the trades!
Please remember there is no one way to tackle pregnancy or motherhood in construction. The stories shared in this blog series were what worked for each guest. They are meant to be shared experiences or suggestions if you think they fit into your lifestyle and career path.
TIPS AND TRICKS FROM coralee
- Taking iron supplements while breastfeeding will irritate your baby. Her doctor encouraged her to take the supplements but her lactation consultant informed her of the issues it would cause for the baby. Once she stopped taking them, her baby felt so much better. He started sleeping through the night and cried less.
- Let the baby sleep as much as he or she would like to sleep! She used to keep her baby up, so he would sleep through the night. WRONG! Check out Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH CORALEE BEATTY
Coralee is no stranger to our Space to Build community. She was on Season 3 of our podcast. If you would like to learn more about her career story, check it out here!
HOW TO CONNECT WITH KATHRYN & SPACE TO BUILD
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.