My 10-year-old daughter posed the question that, threw me for a loop. She asked, ‘Mommy what is a housewife?’ My eyes opened wide with the look of utter surprise. I took a deep breath and began to explain that a housewife is a married woman who manages the operational functions for the family system from home. She proceeded with her response, “Oh like you, so that’s what you are!” At that point, the feminist in me was livid. I quickly clarified for my daughter that I chose working from home. I manage the details of our family system, but I will not be identified as a ‘traditional’ housewife.
Over the past year a there has been a growing subculture popularized by Tik Tok and Instagram identified as “Tradwives.” Tradwives are women who prefer a ‘traditional marriage.’ One in which the male is the sole provider and leader. The title wife and mother becomes paramount with women who stay at home. Women raising the children, doing the cooking, and housekeeping support their family. While many tradwives are primarily white, a growing number of black women have leaned into the traditional roles of marriage as an escape from capitalist burnout.
Women are Exhausted
Women seek security and restoration from exhaustion. They want relief from economic instability. Many women feel the stress of surviving in environments that are complicit in economic inequality. Black women have been affected by the combined effects of racism and sexism. With increasing economic uncertainty and weakened government systems, more black women are reassessing the tradeoff between working outside of the home and being the caregiver for their family.
This is a Crisis
This growing population of the tradwives reflects the post pandemic anxiety and society shifts. We see the disillusionment of the lean-in “Girl Boss” movement. As well as the “always-on” work culture. And then there is the growing caregiving crisis of raising children while caring for elderly parents. Homestay and full-time family life are a preferred option for women who already take care of most unpaid domestic work.
The Downside of Staying Home
The privilege of being a stay-at-home wife and mother is one solution. One that comes with dismissing the deeper systemic and institutional issues women experience. Not to mention the problem that has no name that reflects an old story in American history. Diagnoses of sexual stress, pregnancy fears, postpartum depression, emotional breakdown, and suicidal thoughts surge among married women. The mystique of the housewife remains unspoken for many American women. When facing their sense of identity as a wife and mother, they ask the question, “Is this all?”
Honor Women, It’s March
In the brilliant work of author Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique’ liberated women considered their passion and dreams beyond what supports male patriarchy. Inspired women spoke their voice honestly, particularly about their ambition.
Each year, Women’s History month is celebrated in March. I honor the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s. It changed the attitude of ‘private family matters’, outlawed marital rape, and promoted a no-fault divorce. I honor the organized activism of reformers and revolutionaries who sought equal rights and greater opportunities of personal freedom for women.
Black Women at Home
As a Black woman, I acknowledge that feminism is contextual. My primary feminist principle professes that I matter. My feminine existence, identity, work, body, and wellbeing matters. Working from home, and therefore, identifying as a ‘stay-at-home’ mom embraces a position that centers my family. I have a lifestyle choice my mother and ancestors were not afforded. The history of oppression in this country enforces black women working outside their homes. Single mothers assume the role of both parents, leaving the house as the sole provider for their family.
Invisible Labor of Women
A women’s work whether at home or outside, paid, or unpaid deserves recognition and appreciation. Invisible labor strips women of time to themselves. Time in which innovation, creativity, mental well-being, relationship, and life satisfaction can flourish. The need for restoration and self-preservation starts with an honest and healthy conversation.
What’s to Be Done?
What is systemic support is needed in the relationship and or the family unit? What would equitable sharing, support and appreciation look like for both partners? Imagine two partners collaborating, co-creating a mutual agreement that highlights their vision and aspirations for family life. How do you define yourself as the stay-at-home partner? What is it like for you leaving the home to work each day?
This is not an easy conversation for anyone individually. Reach out to an Imago Therapist today for a safe space for you and your partner, define or redefine your roles together and begin attending to each other’s needs.