“I studied engineering but had to stop working when I got married”

Published on: 1 February 2022

Was everything better in the past or does the ‘now’ also has its advantages? This new series reports on conversations between different generations about social themes.

Fusina Verloop (57) and her mother Lidy (92) are the first to take the stage. “Fusina does what I aspired to do.”


About each other

Fusina about her mother: “I admire her positivity, creativity and resilience. We have had two crazy years, but my mother did not become discouraged. She almost never complains and is more concerned about her hairdo. I inherited some of that joyful attitude to life.”

Lidy about her daughter: “Fuus is my source of support and my anchor. I can always count on her. We see each other at least once a week, sometimes more often.”




Working women used to be an exception back in the days. What was that like for you, Lidy?

“I studied engineering and worked as an architect for a couple of years, but I stopped working when I met Fusina's dad. I had five children in seven years’ time. That's the way it was back then. You had to give up work once you got married. It took me a lot of effort to accept that. I did use my architectural knowledge to keep the renovations in the house on the right track.”

Fusina: “My mother was always there for us. She managed the entire family. It is disrespectfully called ‘being a housewife’, but my father was only able to make progress in his career and earn money because my mum did everything else. When my dad passed away, in 1994, I was very curious to see how she would cope with that. She had always taken care of him and us, and would have been well in her right to just give up. But she started living her own life instead. She invested in friendships, picked up all kinds of things, took courses. I find that admirable.”

Lidy: “It was an entire new chapter in my life. I used to play second fiddle. My husband was in charge, I was the one taking care of the kids. When he died, I created a new life for myself. It didn’t feel as if there was an alternative; it came from my heart.”


How do you look at the working women of today, Lidy?

“I regret not having been one of those women myself. I would have loved to have a career. I had the skills and the knowledge, but those were different times. I think it's a great development that women are no longer only taking care of the children. I sometimes envy Fusina, hearing all the things she does. There are so many people in her inner circle, such an enormous network. A homemaker is home-bound. I truly enjoy her stories. She is doing what I aspired to do.”

Fusina: “You used to be very active in the past, right mum?”

Lidy: “Yes, I did a lot for the school and the tennis club. When the school's principal left, he said to me: ‘To me, you were the school's mother’. That says something about my commitment.”


Are there still steps to take in terms of emancipation?

Fusina: “I think we are definitely heading in the right direction but are still a bit behind compared to Scandinavian countries. We do the best we can. I am more in favor of natural evolution than all of us saying: things need to be done this way or the other. For example, I am not a firm believer in quotas for women. I also wonder to what extent women are willing to make the sacrifices required for certain high-level positions. Is that what they want if it means they are forced to spend less time at home, with their family? I don't have children myself, but it seems very difficult to me to combine work with a family.”

Lidy: “I think it's important for women to do what feels good. The most important thing is enjoying what you do.”




What was your living standard growing up?

Fusina: “We were relatively well-off.”

Lidy: “We always kept a tight grip on our expenditures, as that was something the wartime taught us. I still don't buy expensive stuff for myself. Although the children showed me that it's good sometimes to purchase high-quality items.”

Fusina: “I am the same: sparing in the basis, but I treat myself once in a while.”


What's your opinion on the current housing market?

Lidy: “I think it's a disgrace. Prior to my move to the nursing home in Baarn, I lived in Bosch en Duin for over fifty years. We purchased our detached house with a large garden 55 years ago for 85,000 Dutch guilders (nearly 40,000 euros, ed). That amount caused me many sleepless nights. And just look at the situation now.”

Fusina: “You can probably imagine the amount we sold the house for eventually. Fortunately, it was bought by a family who loved it just as much as we did because we sold it with pain in our hearts.”


Is a good life feasible for everyone in the Netherlands?

Lidy: “In general, I think we have a good life here compared to many other countries. Of course, there is poverty as well and some people experiencing misfortune. Life is also what you make of it.”

Fusina: “People used to spend their entire career at the same employer and that has changed. I have three sources of income. That's what I love about these times. It's not necessarily easy, but there are more opportunities.”

Lidy: “What you say is right. People used to be loyal to their employer. Someone changing jobs caused suspicion. You didn't just leave. People do now, but that also seems rather restless to me. Things used to be clearer in the past.”


I have three sources of income. That's what I love about these times, there are more opportunities



What's our level of solidarity these days?

Fusina: “I believe the Netherlands has one of the highest percentages throughout Europe when it comes to voluntary work, so I think we are definitely still solidary in that respect. Many messages in the media portray a negative picture but I see many good initiatives around me.”

Lidy: “I do believe the younger generation is very much me, me, me. But that probably has a transitional nature. Today's children are experiencing Corona which could lead to a counter-reaction.”


Did we pay more attention to one another in the past?

Lidy: “It was easier just paying someone a visit unannounced without having to make an appointment. That has changed.”

Fusina: “But you are not forgotten, right mum? The other day someone from the church stopped by to give you a Christmas decoration.”

Lidy: “Yes, it's true, people pay attention to me. That's also one of the reasons why I moved here, so I wouldn't be alone. Although one of my neighbors walked around my house every day when I still lived in Bosch en Duin, just to keep an eye on me.”


What do you do for other people?

Lidy: “I would like to do more should I have the opportunity.”

Fusina: “I am a member of the rotary in Amsterdam and chairperson of the charity committee. We collect money for good causes and I regularly bake cakes for families who have to make ends meet on a low budget. It's a small effort for me and it brings great pleasure to others. I also used to manage a kid’s cinema in a children's hospital for a long time and I gave hockey training to children with special needs. I believe it's a good thing to reach out to people who are less fortunate.”




What type of family did you grow up in, Lidy?

“I had two sisters; my mother was one of the first women who studied chemistry. There weren't many girls back then enrolled in that type of education. But she too became a homemaker after that.”


What message did you want to pass on to your own children?

“I have tried never telling them how things were supposed to be done, I rather showed them leading by example. I believe it works better if you show them something instead of putting it into words. I gave my children more freedom compared to my own youth. In the past, you just did what your parents told you to do. They expected a lot and resented you if you didn't behave the way you were supposed to. I wanted to handle that differently.”


What did you enjoy about your upbringing, Fusina?

“I was taught good standards and values. Being polite to other people, respecting others even if they have a different opinion. I have good memories of the rituals and traditions, holidays. My father always invited the entire family. And travelling has been good for us as well, as it opens your eyes on what is happening in other countries.”


What did you like less?

“That we never talked about religion.”

Lidy: “That's true. Your father would have none of it. I went to church, but he didn't like that very much. I should have talked about it more with you guys.”

Fusina: “You cannot do everything perfectly.”


To what extent have the standards and values changed in the past decade?

Lidy: “The style of living has become somewhat sloppier. People aren't as polite anymore. Not that I am such a good girl, on the contrary, people sometimes say I talk too much. But at least I try to listen to other people and to understand their point of view.”

Fusina: “Indeed, that's what my upbringing taught me as well. I have had some Americans visiting my house once who said they could talk to me about politics without arguing for the first time in their lives. I feel as if we are increasingly less able to have sympathy for other people's opinion in the Netherlands. That is a pity. We should be proud of the fact that we have this many political parties and the freedom to express our opinion.”



What do you think is good and bad about the ongoing technological progress?

Lidy: “The internet is a wonderful thing. You can search for everything. I do believe it's a shame that people hardly read anymore these days. That should be stimulated more. Reading places you into a different world, today's children spend a lot of time on their phone.”

Fusina: “On the other hand, I think it can also make children very creative, It’s impressive to see what some children are doing on TikTok. Those kind of things weren't available to us growing up.”

Lidy: “I am a bit concerned though. Children shouldn't forget they have friends to talk to. It's so impersonal just sending messages.”




What life wisdom would you rather have known sooner?

Fusina: “That you always have to determine your own course and listen to your intuition. You can become successful especially by doing the things you feel good about.”

Lidy: “I would have liked to know sooner that negative or sad things can also bring something beautiful. If you experience something sad with each other, it also brings you together. Such event also connects people. Bright spots can also be found in the lesser good times.”