Q&A: Working mom details her experience on the job site
Elvira Lovas speaks about going through a pregnancy and raising a son while working in the trades.
Every May, Canadians celebrate the strength and dedication of moms for Mothers Day.
This year, SiteNews wanted learn more about working mothers who put on steel-toed boots and head off to the job site.
We spoke with Elvira Lovas, an Ontario tradesperson who holds multiple electrical licenses, a refrigeration mechanic license and a gas fitter license. She’s worked in construction, commercial service, facilities operations, passenger rail and academia. She also is single mother to a 10-year-old son.
SiteNews: How did you get into the construction sector and what sort of work do you do?
Elvira Lovas: Started in concrete and framing to try it, found it quickly boring. Moved to technical service in HVACR and gasfitting (some construction there too), then into industrial electrical work. I really like the technical subject matter. Trades were cheaper than Uni for engineering after already being in debt for a diploma I didn’t want to use in an industry I wasn’t interested in (which is what i was encouraged to be in by everyone). Lesson is figure yourself out and try different things to get some experience before taking decisions that require long term commitments. So simply put, I kind of settled for close to what I wanted that I believed I could afford. It worked out well.
What has been experience going through a pregnancy/raising a child while working in the industry?
No difference in work other than being too fat to fit in to places I did previously and yes I did all the heavy work just fine. Women are power-cleaning (heavy overhead presses) eight months pregnant at the gym nowadays so yeah, it’s doable if you have a healthy pregnancy and you’re fit. Not having weekends off due to work schedules worked out just great because his father was able to spend time with him on weekends and I had weekdays off to do whatever I wanted with my son. Not much for a social life but I was happy “momming” on my non-job time.
How did your life change after becoming a mother?
I’ve never stopped being tired haha. It gets a little better after a while (kiddo is 10 now) but there are some words I’ll never remember for lack of sleep (and now I’m getting older so there’s that). It’s busy. You better want it if you’re going to do it. I’m also super happy I did. Wouldn’t change a thing. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me.
Did you have any concerns about how you might be treated in the industry if you had a child?
No. Didnt tell anyone until I was really big and I couldn’t just say I was fat anymore. It was winter when I grew so I was able to hide it for a good while under the clothing. Since they saw me working while pretty large and pregnant already they didnt try to deter me because obviously, I was fine. Though I did have someone, not a tradesperson, a woman actually, freak out at me for working the way I was. She later apologized.
What was the response from your employer and coworkers when they found out you were going to be a parent?
One guy dropped his coffee when I told him I was pregnant. My boss wanted me to hurry up and come back but was very supportive. Think I timed it well due to us being slow after the recession (very much planned it as such). They were all pretty good about it. I did later get comments from one co-worker asked me who was feeding my son when I was working overtime. I’m sure others think like that. Their insecurities are not my problem. People who want to find something wrong with you always will, or they’ll make something up, so do whatever you want.
What are some misconceptions you think people have about working mothers in construction?
The same misconceptions they have about women and mothers in general.
What are some of the challenges of being a mother in construction?
Unpredictable schedule which is why I’m in an industrial environment with shift work and a full time job.
What are some of the advantages of being a mother in construction?
Money. I can take care of my aging father and son and still have a disposable income. If you do what feels right, it doesn’t feel like work when you have to work.
Has being a mother taught you any lessons that have contributed to your work life?
I feel like I understand people in general more watching my son develop and knowing him as his own person. Changed my perspective on alot of things.
Has being in construction taught you any lessons that have contributed to your parenting?
What to correct while he is young. What happens when you don’t. I think blue collar environments are full of people who didn’t do what they were told. That isn’t inherently bad, but there is usually a lot of mental baggage that comes with being that way that can lead to unhappiness. I want him to be who he is (a free thinker) while being emotionally well adjusted and happy as an adult.
What are some things that the employers, government and coworkers could do to be more supportive of working mothers?
Employers need to be supportive of parents in general, meaning that men shouldn’t be punished for being parents, socially or otherwise either. This means men also need to have time with their families. Maternity leave has always been 15 weeks and parental leave 35 which can be taken by either parent. Men are afraid to take it, putting the burden on mothers, and denying men the opportunity to parent the way they could. Mothers absolutely need time to nurse their children, but men need time to bond and to be fathers. Children need their fathers too. PEOPLE shouldn’t be afraid to lose their jobs if they chose to have a life other than their career. The benefits extend to better mental health for everyone and better adjusted children and adults.
What would be your advice to other women in the industry who want to have a family and a career?
People are going to judge you anyway. Do whatever you want.