Perspective: What should we make of the ‘tradwife’ craze?

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We were recently blessed by the arrival of our sixth child. As we always do, one of the first things we did was open a bank account for him.

While filling out the application, I came to what is always a tricky question: my occupation. I’m a stay-at-home mom who home-schools, in addition to being a writer and political commentator. So what box do I check? Caregiver? Writer? Homemaker? Unemployed?

This time around, I chose “homemaker” and chuckled to myself about how positively retro the description is. But there’s an even more retro movement afoot although I don’t expect it to appear on forms anytime soon — that of the “tradwife,” or traditional wife, who embraces homemaking and rejects modern feminism.

As reported by the New York Post last week, the TikTok hashtag #TradWife has garnered 110.6 million views, as young women admire — or mock — the seemingly antiquated, fringe lifestyle.

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In the U.K., the Daily Mail sounded much like anthropologist Jane Goodall in its reporting on tradwives, likening the women’s lives to something strange and exotic straight out of the history books.

The tabloid profiled Alexia Delarosa, 29, from San Diego, described as a mother of two who lives like “a fully-fledged 1950s-style housewife… (and lives according to) old-fashioned gender stereotypes.”

What’s so old-fashioned? “The Californian, who stays at home to cook, clean and look after the children while her husband goes out to work, said she adopted the homemaker mindset because her own mom wasn’t around enough when she was a kid,” the Daily Mail article said.

That doesn’t seem very revolutionary or even counter-revolutionary, does it? Hardly exciting enough for coverage in two of the biggest tabloids in the English-speaking world. And yet, apparently it is.

Taking breaks from writing this column to make sourdough bread, place a grocery order, cure a few egg yolks and change diapers, I could conceivably be described not just as a homemaker, but also as a “tradwife.” Women like me don’t represent the average adherent of the “tradwife” movement, however.

According to the Post, the concept of “tradwifery” is linked to values of religious conservatives. The article quotes a scathing report by a left-leaning nonprofit, Political Research Associates, which calls the tradwife lifestyle “toxic” and derides influencers who promote “heteronormative families exploring nature and enjoying an agrarian lifestyle.”

“In some circles, being a tradwife — short for ‘traditional wife’ — also means being a fundamentalist Christian, and accepting that women shouldn’t work, shouldn’t have the right to vote, and should fully submit to their husbands and their faith to live a happy life of homemaking,” according to the article on the Political Research Associates website entitled “Why are Gen Z Girls Attracted to the Tradwife Lifestyle?”

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There’s also an element of “LARPing” or live-action role-playing, especially when it comes to TikTok and Instagram influencers dressing as ’50s housewives. These women and their lives are perfect tabloid fodder, but they represent a small fraction of women who have chosen to stay home with their children instead of taking a full-time job.

The fascination with “tradwives” obscures a real and growing movement of more mainstream women who are choosing to off-ramp from their careers and instead focus on nurturing their families by cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and educating, and yes, caring for their husbands, too. They aren’t submissive to their husbands; they just want a different life than what the mainstream media promotes as “normal.” 

Historically, the number of stay-at-home mothers has always hovered between 20% and 30%, with a growing number of women making that decision since the late 2010s. In a 2022 survey, Motherly reported that “During the pandemic, women left the workforce at twice the rate of men.”

Given that bump, the number of stay-at-home mothers could conceivably be at highs we haven’t seen in decades. And yet tabloids and the far left portray this way of life as “fringe” and sensationalize it for their audience.

Staying home to care for your household and its members isn’t old-fashioned; it’s always been the norm for many, and it is simply a preferred way of life for millions of American families. Millions more report that they would choose to do the same if they could swing it financially. Many tradwives come from a generation of women who were raised being told that they could have it all. But after getting a glimpse of what “having it all” entails, they’ve had enough.

Just because you can have it all doesn’t mean you want to.

Bethany Mandel, a contributing writer for Deseret, is a home-schooling, stay-at-home mother of six and a widely published writer on politics, culture and Judaism. She is also an editor for the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty.”

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