One of the most unexpected social movements of the moment is the Tradwives. Short for “traditional wife”, a tradwife is out and proud about choosing to be a wife, mum and homemaker.
I only heard this week about Alena Pettitt, the self-styled British #Tradwife who is becoming an international figurehead celebrating “the role of the housewife, traditional family dynamics [and] great homemaking”.
Apparently always dressed like a 1950s magazine model, Pettitt dumped a career in the beauty industry because “being a housewife is a career that’s allowed my family — and marriage — to flourish”.
I’m a housewife, I am responsible for childcare, cleaning, budgeting, catering & supporting the emotional well-being of my family. This is called houseWORK & homeMAKING. They are jobs I do not wish to outsource. It is financially “inactive”, but oh so active in terms of WORK.
— Alena Kate Pettitt (@darlingacademy) February 20, 2020
Like me, on first blush you are probably still trying to work out if it is 2020 or have we all entered Back To The Future. As I was getting my head around how it is now so radical to declare what the Tradwives do, I stopped to think about my own household – and how I cook, clean, and look after my children while my spouse is at work.
And I’m a bloke.
So, um, am I a Tradwife? Sure, I work part-time (at Eternity!), just as my wife Amy works part-time as a manager of retail property analysts.
But go back to the bit about how, when Amy is at work, I’m doing many of the things championed by Pettitt and her preened posse. And as Pettitt proudly said to The Daily Mail: “It’s a choice”.
Before Tradwives got their own hashtag, Amy and I decided we both would do paid work part-time and alternate looking after our young daughters (who are now at pre-school) throughout the week. That arrangement has been going strong for the past few years and I’ve benefited enormously from spending so much time with my daughters. Even as I’m mopping the house, cranking out dinner or debating which Disney Princess song will next be playlisted.
I think I’m not a Tradwife due to my paid work component. And then there’s my gender. I’m also not a fan of the subservient vibe coming from this “good old days” movement. In the US, Tradwives have been associated with the Far Right and are an easy target for anti-feminist tirades.
The Tradwife talk of “husbands must always come first if you want to maintain a happy marriage” invites cries of oppression and, indeed, misogyny.
In the US, Tradwives have been associated with the Far Right and are an easy target for anti-feminist tirades.
But as South Australian Tradwife Danielle told the ABC, there are many different types of women in this subculture. (And, no, they are not all professing Christians as you might have presumed.) Personally, Danielle is not aligning herself with any women who “pervert traditional values by lowering themselves to servant status in their marriage”.
What unites the Tradwives seems to be a desire to find a way for family and married life to thrive, in recognition of how hard it actually is to “have it all”. Hint: none of us can.
The waves of feminism did incredible things for demanding the equality and worth of women. But achieving so much has come at a cost, with women often feeling pulled between the demands of home and work.
The level of ingrained expectation on how well I balance work and home is significantly less than it is on Amy.
While my choice to be at home during part of the week is still seen as novel or, cough, noble, Amy feels the burden of trying to be a working mum. Being a working dad is a breeze in comparison. Even with all the social changes in gender roles, the level of ingrained expectation on how well I balance work and home is significantly less than it is on Amy.
According to Catherine Rottenberg and Shani Orgad in The Conversation, there is a “profound crisis” for women in the overlapping arenas of work and home life.
“The current toxic always-on work culture must be understood as a key factor facilitating the rise of this retro-movement,” write Rottenberg and Orgad about the Tradwives’ response to the increased demands upon working women.
“Even relatively privileged women … find it difficult to live up to the popular feminist ideal of ‘work-life balance’.
“Rather than simply a backlash against feminism, the Tradwife phenomenon needs to be understood as a symptom of – as well as a reaction to – the increasing insecurity of our times.”
Like them or not, the Tradwives are women who claim to be making a personal choice about how to live their lives.
“Although I don’t advocate that every woman’s place is in the home, it’s time we celebrate the importance of the role for those that feel it is,” promotes Pettitt.
We live in permissive times where independence, individuality and personal choice are highly prized. Why then would the Tradwives not be allowed their right to choose old-school aprons and makeup around the house?
The Tradwives have reminded me that households do have a choice about what helps them to function and flourish.
For us, we believe God and Jesus need to be at the centre of what we do and how we relate. How that operates will look different over the years, but the core remains the same for us. Not matter what is asked by the shifting demands of society, the choice we make in our household is to filter our work-life-everything decisions through the will of God.
So, no, dinner does not have to be on the table by 6.