Are Traditional Wives Actually Making a Comeback?

woman mom holding baby on a chair in a living room with plants

One thing about trends: they are like boomerangs; they always come back around.

Thanks to the world of social media, we now get to see many women returning to the traditional wife (or “trad wife) life. Trad wife is the trendy way of saying “traditional wife,” and some of the influencer girlies are really pushing this narrative. Meanwhile, many are scratching their heads. After more than a century of a battle for the right to work and to close the wage gap, it seems as though many women are returning to the life of the traditional wife with pride… or are they?

The History of the Traditional Wife (or Trad Wife)

When you hear the term housewife, most people automatically picture a woman wearing a floral, A-line dress and apron. Her hair is in fresh, bouncy curls, and her makeup is applied flawlessly.  She is gleefully removing freshly baked cookies from the oven, with her kitten heels click-clacking away on her linoleum floors. Just picture June Cleaver, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Being at home and taking care of her family is her life’s mission, which she does with a smile on her face.There is no denying that it was widely believed that a woman’s job was to solely manage her home and take care of the children.

Today, we know plainly that the truth is that women, especially those of privilege, had to settle for this life as they did not have basic freedoms that would allow them to live a life comparable to their male counterparts. Women couldn’t even open their own bank accounts until 1960, nor could they purchase their own homes until the 1970s. If they did attempt to have a career, their options were often limited to jobs like a seamstress, a teacher, a nurse, a bookkeeper, a waitress, or a clerk.  As women gained their independence, the era of the housewife began to be looked down upon. Ultimately, it became a thing of the past.

Is the Traditional Wife Making a Comeback?

Right now, the social sphere is buzzing with momfluencers charging the discussion of the importance of being a traditional wife. Many claim that a traditional wife is …

  • a “Godly” woman who sacrifices her desired career (if she desires one at all),
  • manages the home,
  • responsible for the child-rearing,
  • and expected to be submissive and agreeable.

The way this discussion has gone viral for the past three years would make one believe that this is happening at a rapid rate. However, the data just does not support that rhetoric. In 2020, there was a spike in the number of women leaving the workforce to stay at home, but this influx is believed to be an effect of the global pandemic. According to the 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 18.2% families where only the father was employed, a major decline from the 35.6% in 1967.  The number of wives that are stayed home has relatively remained the same since 2003, and this likely due to the economy more than personal values.

While our social media newsfeeds may make us believe that the traditional wife has made a great comeback, they are not—that’s the algorithm for ya! In fact, it has declined in the last year as more women are returning to work after the pandemic.

Percentages of husband only employed families

Nuclear families (NF) maintained by men*35.6%20%19.1% 8.4%19.1%18.2%
*Nuclear families are families with two parents in the home and children. This data represents the husbands in nuclear families that are the only ones employed.

How the #Tradwife Narrative Impacts Us

Unfortunately, social media does a really great job of making outlier lifestyles appear to be the majority. This may pose an even greater issue because influencers can make an outlier lifestyle seem easily attainable. Coupled with their talking points of why it’s necessary, their viewers are sometimes swayed to adopt the same mindset and give it a try, feel inadequate in their own lives, or share it in mass to discuss their reasons for disagreeing.

Think about it: When you’re sitting at your desk and taking a quick mental break to scroll social media, that mom that is taking a midday bubble bath and sipping on her mimosa seems to have the right idea. You might take a quick glance at your screensaver where your child is pictured and wish you, too, could be on the way to the park with your little one like that influencer mom. This carefully curated content can make some mothers question if they have made the right choice in being an independent woman. Before you know it, you’ve scrolled through several of their videos and now your algorithm is showing you nothing but the same 20 stay-at-home moms (SAHM), and you feel like everybody is living the “trad wife life” except you.

When it comes to the battle of the traditional wife versus the feminist movement, it would seem as though the feminist movement is taking a big hit. Especially when we think of how women’s rights are beginning to be stripped away (but that is a conversation for another day). Still, whether you decide to be a working wife/mom or a traditional wife, make sure you are doing what is best for you. It is important to remember that influencers are only sharing a glimpse of their life, and that does not always include the realities of how challenging being a homemaker can be.

The Trending #TradWife, In Conclusion

While #tradwife is a trending topic, it is not an actual trend. Women are not quitting their day jobs in droves to stay at home, take care of the children, and bake cookies all day. In fact, with the recent inflation increase of 6.5%, many women are working and contributing to their households almost just as much as their partners or husbands (46.6%).

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Peaches Dean is a parenting coach and writer/author. She uses her decade of experience in working with children and families to fuel her passion for writing. Her goal is to empower women in their life’s journey, especially as it pertains to parenting.

To learn more about Peaches, follow her on these social media platforms:
Instagram: @PeachesDean_
Facebook: Peaches Dean


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