A TikTok trend of stay-at-home moms sharing their daily routine of performing domestic work has prompted a debate about whether it encourages women to be submissive.
As Insider reported earlier this month, women showcasing their lives as homemakers is part of a trend of American women making “trad wife” (traditional wife) content showing the positive aspects of being a housewife. The trad wife hashtag has more than 96 million views on TikTok, with some users incorporating it into their usernames.
Estee C. Williams, a 24-year-old who creates content for TikTok, defines trad wife as a woman “who chooses to live a more traditional life with ultra-traditional gender roles."
Williams lives in Virginia with her husband, Conner. In June, the homemaker posted a video listing all the things she does to make her life more enjoyable, including listening to music while cleaning, wearing makeup and cute house dresses, and taking candle-lit baths.
In an interview with Insider, Williams said she is not disparaging women’s right to work, but adds that housewives like her believe many “women have drifted far from [our] roots.”
"For me, the hustle culture was not appealing. Being a wife, mom, making delicious home-cooked meals for my family, and keeping up a warm, inviting home is what truly spoke to me,” Williams said.
The social media influencer added that working can be good for some women, but fears many in the workforce suffer from burnout.
"I choose to promote this lifestyle to showcase the fulfillment this lifestyle gives,” she said.
According to a 2020 analysis conducted by Great Place to Work and healthcare start-up Maven, mothers in paid employment are 23% more likely to experience burnout than fathers in paid employment.
The study surveyed over 1,200 U.S. companies and over 400,000 working parents. The analysis included 226,000 working mothers and 204,000 working fathers, having them respond to 60 questions through Great Place to Work’s Trust Index survey.
An estimated 2.35 million working mothers in the U.S. suffered from burnout during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly “due to unequal demands of home and work,” according to the study.
Another survey conducted by the business networking site LinkedIn assessed nearly 5,000 members on the site between July 31 and Aug. 13 last year. The study found that while working women and men face similar stresses, the intensity level was always higher for women.
Seventy-four percent of women said they felt “very or somewhat stressed” for work-related reasons, compared to 64% of working men.
Forty percent of working women cited “not having enough time in the day to get everything done” as one of their top stress factors, versus just 35% of male respondents.
The Insider report noted that some trad wives believe that feminism has persuaded women to enter the workforce instead of being full-time wives and mothers. Deborah Etienne, a Brandwatch data analyst and researcher tracking the social media trend, asserted that "many trad wives reject feminism, claiming it has destroyed everything."
Whitman College sociologist Michelle Janning told Insider that the chaos of the pandemic might have influenced some women to be full-time stay-at-home mothers. According to Janning, the stress of working outside the home during this time might have led some women to decide that being at home was the best option.
"As a sociologist, I would say, when people collectively feel like there's not a lot of control in the world, you cling to something familiar, and concrete because it might be comfortable," she told Insider.
Janning also cautioned that not all trad wives are creating content to promote homemaking as a healthy lifestyle. She claimed that some might use the trend to champion "conservative or white supremacist views." Another TikTok user that once identified as a trad wife, Madison Dastrup, stopped associating with the term in September for this reason.
The sociologist further added that some of these women on TikTok are actually pursuing a career “outside the home” by working as social media influencers.
"It could be that they're not selling a product but selling a version of themselves, and their husband will be getting the sponsorship,” Janning said. “It's a contradiction: their job is to tell people they don't have a job."
She went on to insinuate that society’s “gender system” tells women that being a homemaker is a lifestyle choice, but it’s really pushing them toward the role of a full-time housewife.
"It's less of a choice than maybe we think it is,” Janning said.
Abby Roth, a conservative and host of the "Classically Abby" podcast, which promotes classic feminist values, examined the #TradWide trend in a May 2020 article at Evie. Roth claimed that some versions of the trend “demean women” instead of merely celebrating stay-at-home moms.
Some definitions of the trend, Roth explained, claim that women can only be traditional if they stay home full-time.
“A classic woman can be a traditional wife and mother even if she does work because she knows that her passion for her work is there to support her traditional life at home,” she wrote. “Where feminism proposes that women should actively choose career over family, being classic says that work and family can go hand-in-hand.”
The feminist emphasized that a husband and wife must commit to growing alongside one another, encouraging each other to become better versions of themselves. She argued that the #Trad trend appears to discourage women from speaking to their husbands about how to improve their character.
“Because this #Trad definition expects wives to be submissive and husbands to be dominant, it creates an inherent power imbalance in the relationship,” Roth wrote at the time.
She asserted that marriages “should be based on partnership, not subservience.”
According to a YouGov survey from the Institute for Family Studies/Wheatley Institution of 2,500 American adults, ages 18-55, conducted from May 28 to June 10 last year, 53% of parents with children younger than 18 prefer working from home most of the time or half of the time due to the pandemic.
Sixty-five percent of college-educated fathers supported the idea of working from home at least half the time or most of the time. Approximately 44% supported working from home most of the time, while 21% support working from home half of the time. Among college-educated mothers, some 57% endorse the shift.
Mothers were more likely than fathers to voice a preference for having flexible work hours and sharing childcare responsibilities with their partners. Nearly 30% of moms and dads believe one parent staying home full-time is the “best arrangement” for children under 5.
The researchers behind the survey concluded that their results support the idea that most parents caring for their children themselves if their work arrangement allows it.
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.