Monique was one of the few women to hold an accountancy degree in the fifties but turned into a fulltime caretaker after the death of her mother. “My husband never kept me down. The spirit of the times did.”Monique
My mother passed away when I was about twenty. I wanted to get out of the house and find a job as an accountant. My father and my brothers however needed someone to look after them and felt strongly about being the ones to provide for the family. “We never needed women to make sure there is food on the table and we’re not going to start now either”, they claimed. So, I stayed at home, where there was plenty of work to be done.
Later on, when I met my husband, my father agreed I got married on the condition that we would live with him under the roof of my childhood home. So, we found ourselves running a business, and living together with my husband, my father, and my brothers. My father ended up staying with us until he passed away. By that time my eldest daughter – we got three children – was eighteen years old.
I remember my father telling me about the rooms on the second floor that he would furnish, so the both of us would at least have some privacy. On one of the first evenings after my husband and I returned from our honeymoon, we went upstairs after having dinner. But only to find ourselves surrounded once again by the entire family after about fifteen minutes. My brothers enjoyed my husband’s company a lot. And so, we tended to stick around the shared living spaces after all. The upstairs sitting room – the nicest one of the entire house for that matter – ended up never being used.
I spent most of my life taking care of my brothers and father, my children, and my husband. As a couple we did dream about starting a second business – my husband already ran a printing house – in a nearby village. As soon as we would have some more time to ourselves, I would manage a stationary shop and we would accept printing orders on the side. Little did we know that my father was going to reach the age of ninety! (laughs) We were never able to turn that dream into reality, but that’s just the way things were back in those days.
Our children appreciated having their mother home all of the time – or at least, that’s how I remember it. Especially since my husband was up and about from early morning until late at night. For the printing house, but he was involved in all sorts of sports clubs and social groups as well. I took up an active role in the local women’s movement. I guess that position and the interaction with the other women involved often helped me find purpose in what I was doing.
My husband never kept me from doing what it was I wanted to do. We had a good relationship and I believe our children will agree that we were able to offer them a happy childhood. If I do regret certain events or opportunities I missed out on – as a result of being a woman – I would say there was little that I could have done differently. The social structures in place just didn’t allow for it.