Thoughts on family, fatherhood, work, and home-life… in a post-global age

The Tradwife Movement Reminds Us of the Virtue of Service in Marriage

There seems to be what I see as the beginning of a substantial backlash against many things we have taken for granted in culture and society for the last five or six decades in the Western world, and particularly in America. One of these is the notion that motherhood and homemaking is an inferior, subordinate role that oppresses and demeans women, and that women should therefore eschew it, and join men in the workplace. The rise of the “TradWife” (traditional wife) movement is part of the kickback against this – and one with which, in large measure, I agree.

I was raised by a traditional wife and mother: Ma never worked outside the home during my lifetime, although she did work as an English teacher during the first few years of her marriage to Pa. But not long after my oldest brother was born, she left “outside” work, and returned to the home. And there is no question that I benefited – we all did – from her ability to devote her full time and attention to being a wife, mother, and homemaker. We had clean clothes, a clean house, healthy, delicious homemade meals, baked deserts, and much else, thanks to her not needing to squeeze such things around full-time (or even part-time) work.

I also have no doubt that I was saved from many opportunities to “sin and err” by the fact that I knew she (or if she had to be away, my grandmother) would be there waiting for me when I got home from school! And no matter how far I roamed, through the woods and fields near my house, I never seemed to be out of the range of her call (a resounding “Tooommmmmmmmmm!”), that echoed through the air, come supper time – to the awed amazement of my friends, who were shocked that such a small person (she was all of 5’3″ in height) could call so loudly.

I empathize with the nostalgia for the immediate post-WW II era. Although I was born in 1965, I was in many significant ways a “child of the 1950s”: Ma and Pa were married then, and both my brothers were born in the ’50s (I was a late-comer, and rather a surprise, at the time!). So I get it! My concern about the TradWife movement, however – despite my admiration for many of the women involved, and my agreement with the basic premise that both women and their families are benefited by them being at home with and for those families – is that many or most of them seem to take the 1950s as their template for what a “traditional” wife should be, and do.
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Homemaking (or Homemakers) Monday – a growing trend?

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Mountain Housewife (@mtnhousewife) on Twitter shared this lovely image and posted,

“Imagine a day when the ordinary mother caring for her home is held up as an ideal again. This stamp celebrating the homemaker was issued by the U.S. Postal service in 1964.”

That was just a year before I was born! Back when there were only slightly over 2 billion people on the whole planet (there are something like 7.3 billion, now, and the number keeps growing), America was proud of its identity as a Christian nation, and my mother was equally proud of her membership in the Homemakers Club.

[These still exist, by the way, although they’re not as large, active, or prominent as they were in her day. Traditional Homemakers Clubs “are generally grouped by location and focus on homemaking skills, personal growth, socialization, volunteer efforts and improving the community,” just as they did in the 1950s – 80s. But, as I say, they are not as widespread. I could not find reference to an active one in Maryland, unfortunately. When they exist, they are usually – as they were then – under the auspices of the Agricultural Extension Service of the local land-grant university. The link is to the University of Kentucky!]

[UPDATE: I take that back! There do still seem to be a few active clubs in Maryland, including one in Frederick County, not too far from me.]

But when I looked up “Homemaking Monday,” thinking it would be an annual observance, what I found surprised me – and pleasantly so! Quite a few blogs of homemaking women, “Trad Wives”, etc., seem to be viewing “Homemaking Monday” as a weekly occurrence, a time to celebrate the art of the housewife. That is encouraging, in my view!

That said, though, see “Why tradwives aren’t trad enough,” for a discussion about the limitations of this approach (which typically takes the very historically and economically exceptional 1950s as its template), and some suggestions for possible solutions to this dilemma – one which closely tracks my own thinking on the subject (think Proverbs 31:10-31). I’ll probably write more on the subject at a later time.

But for now, let me just celebrate the fact that at least a growing number of women are rejecting the idea that they should emulate Industrial Revolution (and post-Industrial Revolution) men, and work outside the home to find their fulfillment. I don’t even think that’s a good idea for most men, and I certainly don’t think it’s a good idea for women. But as I say, I’ll write more on that subject anon.

In the meantime, kudos to those women who are at least keeping the skills, arts, and qualities of the homemaker alive. We can re-weave some of the broken strands of truly traditional home and family life later on. Survival and preservation is an important first step, and I doff my hat to these women!