'Tradwife' lifestyle trends on social media and the internet is divided

Social media influencers promote traditional gender roles in the home.

June 24, 2024, 9:40 AM

Content featuring “tradwives” – women who value being a traditional wife, subscribing to homemaking and conventional gender roles – has flooded social media in recent years and, as the trend rises, American women are facing more scrutiny over their lifestyle choices.

Notable tradwives like 22-year-old former model Nara Smith and TikTok star Estee Williams can be seen cooking, cleaning and showcasing their picture-perfect lives as stay-at-home moms.

Ivy Van Dusen, another social media influencer, juggles her domestic duties as a mom to two boys with content creation, running a TikTok page with more than 119,000 followers. She says that even when she was studying broadcast journalism in college, she had always dreamed of motherhood.

Ivy Van Dusen, a stay-at-home mom and self-proclaimed “trad wife,” says she has always dreamed of motherhood.
ABC News

“My brand is embracing motherhood and enjoying motherhood,” said Van Dusen, a self-proclaimed tradwife. “A lot of people, unfortunately, have this negative view of the way people used to live,” she said. “I was really close with both my grandmothers and even my great grandmother, and they were just the coolest women. When I hear homemakers, when I hear traditional women, I think of really amazing women.”

However, a recent study published by Global Network on Extremism and Technology found that tradwife content on less-regulated platforms, like YouTube and X, formerly known as Twitter, could steer social media users toward radical far-right content and misinformation, especially on current issues involving abortion rights, transgender individuals and vaccinations.

“The definition of a tradwife is not merely someone who stays at home,” said Monica Hesse, a columnist for The Washington Post. “But [someone] who romanticizes it in a retro, nostalgic way where we’re looking back not only to the way things worked in the ‘50s, but the values that families had in the 50s.”

More than 56% of American women are in the workforce – a number significantly higher than in the 1950s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Statistics also show that in 2017, 54% of all U.S. households had two incomes, compared to 26% in 1955. In addition, more than 80% of single parents are mothers.

Dr. Karen Tang (left), a board-certified OB-GYN, surgeon, and book author, says she shares domestic duties with her husband Ray Ward (middle).
ABC News

“The tradwife lifestyle is sold as one that is relaxing and beautiful for the people who participate in it, and for the husbands and the families who benefit from it,” Hesse told “Nightline.” “It is a vision of a lifestyle that is not really attainable.”

Research shows that women tend to bear a heavier financial burden as they get older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of widowhood is 59 years old. Women, on average, live decades longer than their partners. Van Dusen says that she and her husband chose this lifestyle knowing the financial sacrifices.

“Obviously, I have a degree, I have things I could do,” said Van Dusen. “Women like me have thought about that, and we know that things can go wrong. But I think the pros for me outweigh the cons and the reward outweighs the risk.”

For Abby Roth, an Orthodox Jew who calls herself a classical wife and mother, social media has allowed her to share her conservative values. Roth, a former opera singer, stepped away from her life on stage and often talks about the expectations women have about career and family on her YouTube channel with 115,000 subscribers.

“A lot of women are told that they're going to find their fulfillment through their careers,” Roth said. “If you look at somebody's tombstone, it's going to say ‘wonderful daughter, wonderful mother, wonderful wife.’ It's not going to say, ‘wonderful CEO.’”

Abby Roth, who calls herself a classical wife and mother, shares her conservative values on her YouTube channel, including strong opinions on the roles of men and women.
ABC News

Like Van Dusen, Roth says she is not against moms who work. Despite understanding that single mothers and dual-income households are a reality, Roth advocates for women to reexamine their role in the economy.

“I think for a lot of women, work is not necessary. It's a preference,” Roth said. “Life is too short not to do the things that are going to bring you joy.”

But many women may not think they have to choose. Dr. Karen Tang, a board-certified OB-GYN, surgeon and book author, has been married for nearly 20 years and has three children.

“There's a lot of criticism [on social media], like ‘who's raising your kids right now? Why did you have kids if you can't raise them?’” said Tang. “No one would say that to a man.”

Besides her domestic duties, Van Dusen showcases her tradwife lifestyle on her TikTok page with more than 119k followers.
ABC News

As a parent, specifically a working mom, Tang worries that the tradwife trend is an aesthetic performance that leaves out the important and often difficult parts of parenthood. In her household, Tang and her husband, Ray Ward, share domestic duties.

“I take on a lot of things that I think people might assume are a woman's role sometimes,” said Ward. “Dads are missing out if they're not having these experiences. I think we should reexamine what it means to be a man.”

Tang says the tradwife trend should not create a divide between mothers.

“Women should have that freedom to choose,” Tang said. “The problem is those who say that you shouldn't have a choice. ‘All women should do this. This is the ideal situation for everyone.’”

The message of choice and tolerance is one that Van Dusen agrees with.

“I know that moms love their children,” Van Dusen said. “I think a lot of people assume that I'm telling everybody, ‘you need to do this, and you need to live like me,’ and I'm not. But I do think a lot of women should consider it. My message is that you can want this.”