Is the traditional 1950s housewife making a comeback? In 2022, particularly on TikTok, a trend gained momentum, with wives promoting traditional ideals such as the need to keep the household in order, make grocery lists, and plan and cook dinners. These new wave housewives or “traditional housewives” pride themselves on prioritizing their family, husband and home over their careers. It is also important to note that this trend is centered on an identity rooted in male dominance and leadership, and most “business wives” are predominantly white women. Black female hosts also speak openly, sharing unique goals and perspectives; it even has a hashtag, #blackhousewife, with 3.2 million views associated with it.
There are black homemakers who are more focused on establishing economic security and maintaining mental health, rather than solely choosing homemaking as an attempt to forego climbing the corporate ladder and escape burnout. Some black housewives choose to focus their needs and wants while balancing the responsibilities of their households and families, giving them the freedom to manage their lives and identities as they see fit. On TikTok, you’ll find black housewives embracing their femininity and choosing to live what they consider the #softlife.
TikToker and lifestyle influencer Dana Chanel recently opened up to her millions of followers about how being with a financially supportive partner allows her to rest in her feminine energy and focus on things other than survival. “In full transparency, I believe that I was able to embrace my full femininity and my duties as a mother to raise my children when I knew for certain that my husband could provide for us without my efforts if necessary,” she wrote.
Trish A. White is a stay-at-home mom and wife who believes that this way of being a housewife is healthier than what’s being broadcast with the #tradwife trend. “At the core of being a ‘tradwife’ you submit to taking care of your family, house and children, not taking care of your needs, whether it’s a hobby or self-care time,” she says.
She believes that although the movement prioritizes the importance of family time, women get the short end of the stick as it is rooted in supporting and caring for the husband and children, leaving the woman with little or no support.
When asked why she accepts being a stay-at-home mom and dutiful wife, and if she has any setbacks, she attributes her decision to the partnership she has with her husband. “I accept being a stay-at-home mom and a dutiful wife because my husband and I work together. Even in my role I don’t take on everything. I also allow myself to be soft and schedule time to feel like me again between taking care of the house and being a mother and wife,” she says.
White also notes that there aren’t many positive examples of black stay-at-home moms because in our culture we haven’t had the chance to be one, which can affect the self-esteem of many black women. “Failure to embrace being a stay-at-home mom is treating it like a corporate job and being so insecure about the fact that we have no real blueprint for being a successful black stay-at-home mom that we question our worth and we lose ourselves only for the validation of your spouse, family members and friends,” she says.
She continues: “Being a stay-at-home mom, especially one who comes from the idea that you go to school and become ‘this bossy baby who does everything on her own,’ it was hard for me to change my mindset , after becoming a mother. Another big downside is committing to being a stay-at-home mom without considering whether your relationship is strong enough to support you in that role. Once I was able to speak up and share what I needed to feel fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom, I was lucky enough to have a husband who helped me balance being a mom and fulfilling my dreams outside of it be at home mom.”
White doesn’t consider herself a “business wife” because she allows herself to outsource a full-time nanny, bi-weekly cleaning services and grocery delivery services, making motherhood much less stressful for her. Although she doesn’t agree with all the ideologies of the marketers, she believes that black women need to stop being so strong and independent that they can’t accept and embrace a softer lifestyle. However, she believes that marriage as a salesperson is not the key to escaping burnout.
“I don’t believe that every marriage is the key to escaping burnout. I believe that you are the key to escaping burnout,” says White. “Even as a stay-at-home wife and mom in the early stages, I took on too much responsibility and created that role in my head. That meant my husband didn’t have to touch anything when he got home, all because historically what I saw my mom do made me burn out. I will say that instead of marriage being the key to escaping burnout, a healthy marriage is the key to it.”