HUFFPOST PERSONAL

As A Woman in Construction, I Give People Homes Because I Never Truly Had One

"Too often we bottle up the brokenness, afraid of being perceived as trashy, less-than, damaged, or undesirable."
The author and her dad, Jeff.
The author and her dad, Jeff.

I was away for my freshman year of college when I learned that my mother had shot herself three times at a gas station parking lot 1,000 miles from home. She was high and on the phone with my grandmother, trying to make her feel guilty. 

My mother went on to live, only to hang and kill herself while in rehab a few years later. I was 24 years old at the time and the one who had to decide whether or not to take her off of life support. 

My father — and I use that term loosely — is alive, somewhere, today. But the real man I called “dad” died a few years ago of pancreatic cancer. And try as he did, I never truly had a house that felt like a home growing up. It was only until after his passing that I realized, my brokenness is what fuels my passion for building homes. I am a woman in construction, and I design, build and furnish homes that give people a place to feel comfort and safety, because I never had it myself.  

Both of my parents were teenagers when I was born. My birth certificate lists them at 15 and 16 years old, respectively. My father chose to live his own life without my mother and I, and when I was five, my mother married the man I called “dad,” Jeff McGuire. He adopted me and raised me as his own. I was a McGuire from then on, a McGuire by choice, and that feeling was mutual.

Jeff and my mother had my brother when I was 11 years old. My mother was an amazing designer. I have always said that design is something you either have or you don’t. I have to believe that some of my innate design intuition and ability came from her. She was very talented and even attended the Art Institute, but as a young mother and wife, she never found a way to make it work. She was, instead, addicted to cocaine. At 13, I had an addict mother, a hard-working dad trying his best to support us, and a toddler brother who was now my responsibility.

My mother bounced around to rehab centers all over the country. When I was 14, she and Jeff ultimately divorced, but that wonderful man never stopped being my dad.

He made a choice that he didn’t have to make. He could have washed his hands of me, but he continued to raise me, and eventually, we went into business together, a dynamic dad-daughter duo. He was a builder for decades in Central Illinois and I spent countless days on job sites, watching, listening, learning and soaking it all up.  

While he continued to be “dad” to me, with my mother in rehab, and dad’s demanding job and erratic schedule, it made the most sense to move back in with my grandparents. I lived with them until I graduated from high school. It was the closest place I ever had to a home.

My grandparents were my only constant, my everything. My grandmother passed in November 2020. Grandma was so stoic and guarded, yet the most giving person I know. She didn’t share much about my mother, and I didn’t ask. 

My grandpa is my best friend. He tells me that days after I was born, he drove me around in his car and showed me off to all his friends. He would literally do the same thing today if I let him. Even with their love and support, I was not spared the trauma of losing my dad, Jeff, of pancreatic cancer much too soon, having an addict mother and absent biological father.

Even with the piercing pain of it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. And I know I cannot be the only professional woman who feels this way. Too often we bottle up the brokenness, afraid of being perceived as trashy, less-than, damaged, or undesirable. We are conditioned — especially as women — to put on a pretty, polished smile and face the day. Fuck that. I am all about pretty houses, but I know that a space must live like a home. And that’s not always pretty.

A home sometimes means a place filled with love and baggage. It means a place that fosters healthy fighting and loving reconciliation. A home is a place that flows to support the shittiest of days and the triumphant ones, too. 

On a job site.
On a job site.

I cannot — I will not — end up on my death bed at a young age like my parents, realizing there is no time left, wanting for what I never attempted to achieve. Today, I choose to throw myself into construction and grow my company across the country, bringing more women into construction. Women know just what they need out of a house in order to run a healthy, happy, loving home, and so I wonder, why aren’t there more women in construction? We must change this.

We know what it’s like to raise children in a home as a single parent. We know what it’s like to manage a family in a home with two working parents. We know what it’s like to run a home where we entertain the neighbors and bring joy to others’ lives, where we run a home that has aging parents, or children with special needs. The world needs more women — beautifully broken, brilliant women — with life experiences who can help design homes, manage job sites, and furnish homes that function for real life. 

Women, what are you waiting for? This is OUR industry to own. Many men have tried to shut me out and shut me up. But I won’t be silenced, and I won’t “settle down.”

Dad always had my back. He’d witness the looks and the comments as if it were cute that his little girl wanted to follow in his footsteps. But he would encourage me and tell me I couldn’t let it waiver my enthusiasm or focus.  

“Brush it off and keeping moving forward,” he’d say. “You are really good at what you do; never let anyone tell you otherwise.” Even on his death bed, telling him my expansion plans and vision, he said, “Don’t let anything hold you back.” 

Pain makes us stronger than a life without it. I own mine, and I’m here to own the home building industry in ways it has never known before. Because we all deserve more than a house, we deserve a home.  

Nicole McGuire is the CEO or McGuire Home Collection and is raising her two daughters in Central Illinois while also launching her custom home building business into the Naples market. She can be reached at Nicole.McGuireHomes@gmail.com.

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