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.”