Inside The World Of The Real #TradWives Of The UK

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"If my husband wants to 'pay me' to stay at home doing the things I need to make sure my child and I survive, and all I have to do is lay out one extra plate and make sure his underpants are clean – that's a trade I'm more than happy with," #TradWife Alena Kate Pettitt writes on her blog, The Darling Academy.
The #TradWife movement is a growing trend of housewives on social media, comprised of women who believe the greatest happiness is to be found in female domesticity or chores. It has been widely criticised by feminists who believe these women are turning back the clock on women's rights and that their idea of femininity is "entirely fictitious".
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Some of these Trad Wives believe they should be submissive to their husbands (who give them a monthly allowance) and "spoil them like it's 1959", such as Pettitt, who left a high-flying marketing job to join the #TradWife movement.

We're not vacuous just because we vacuum.

LAUREN*, 38
The 34-year-old explained to the BBC that she felt alienated growing up in the 1990s, when attitudes to male and female roles were becoming more liberal. She told the BBC: "The culture at the time was anything but what I enjoyed and it definitely made me feel like an outsider.
"It was all kind of, let's fight the boys and go out and be independent and break glass ceilings. But I just felt I was born to be a mother and wife. What I really related to were the old shows of the 1950s and 60s."

If my husband wants to 'pay me' to stay at home doing the things I need to make sure my child and I survive, and all I have to do is lay out one extra plate and make sure his underpants are clean – that's a trade I'm more than happy with!

Alena Kate Pettitt, 34
Alena now runs a finishing school called The Darling Academy which aims to help women "embrace a feminine, grace-filled, and elegant lifestyle". She has written articles with titles including "Your husband should always come first" and "Ladylike ways to deal with sneezes and snuffles", attracting hundreds of women wanting to connect with her online.
Despite a rise in the number of women entering the workforce – in the UK, 71.8% of women aged 16-64 are now employed – more and more modern women are turning their backs on full-time employment to embrace domestic duty.
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"I like the role of a traditional wife and my husband being traditional in his role too," says Katy* from Shropshire, who discovered the Trad Wife movement by watching Alena's YouTube videos. "Being a Trad Wife to me means being a person who stays at home and looks after the running and upkeep of the household."
Katy joined the Royal Navy aged 17 and stayed in the role for almost five years before working on a dairy farm part-time. Now, the 34-year-old lives with her husband and three children and has undertaken the role of a Trad Wife.
"I have set tasks every day such as hoovering, washing, making the beds, preparing meals. I then have extra bits like polishing, cleaning windows, cleaning the bathroom and food shopping," she adds. "It seems to be a natural balance in our house, there are no arguments about who is cooking the dinner or whose turn it is to clean the bathroom. They are my tasks and I enjoy doing them. My husband is not expected to do any of the housework or cooking, he goes out to work all day doing his job and I stay home doing mine – it works for us."

My husband is not expected to do any of the housework or cooking, he goes out to work all day doing his job and I stay home doing mine.

Katy*, 34
Katy acknowledges the criticisms and says that being a housewife is just as difficult as going to work. "I think some people would consider us lazy because we don't go out to work all day and aren't contributing financially to the household but we're not lazy, we fill our days with various household jobs and tasks.
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"I definitely think more women and men should embrace these traditional values as long as it is a mutual decision between both of them. It worked for a lot of married couples in the past so why shouldn't it work now? We are all equal but our strengths lie in different places."
While the movement may seem innocent on this side of the pond, in the US it has a more sinister side. The TradWife scene has been linked with alt-right circles which refer to women who embody traditionally feminine and wifely qualities, including submissiveness, chastity and willingness to do household chores. Some have even used their social platforms to spread white nationalist ideologies. Ayla Stewart, a Utah woman in her 30s who goes by the name "Wife With A Purpose", uploaded videos to her YouTube channel which centred on spreading alt-right ideology. She deleted them all after receiving backlash.
But Katy believes the Trad Wives movement is grossly misunderstood and is not linked to the Trad Wives in the US. "The TradWife movement in the UK is very different from what it is in America," she says. "I don't think it's anti-feminist, it is a group of women sending out a message to other women saying it's okay to be a housewife, you're valuable too.

Being a TradWife came very naturally to me. I'm so content with visits from loved ones, knowing they'll leave with a belly of freshly baked cake.

Hannah*, 30
"I exercise my right to stay at home and care for my family as much as the next woman exercises her right to work full time, neither is wrong. They are just different. We all submit to one thing or another whether that be another person or a company who you work for. I submit to my husband as he submits to me, it works both ways."
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Hannah* agrees and says she loves the feeling of ease that comes with keeping her home "beautiful" and welcoming. The 30-year-old from Cornwall gave up her retail career to be a housewife. "I realised I wanted to spend all my days being a wife and mother in my beautiful home. Being a TradWife came very naturally to me. I'm so content with cleaning, cooking, taking care of the children and visits from loved ones, knowing they'll leave with a belly of freshly baked cake."
But she makes it clear that her arrangement with her husband is mutual. "He's happy if I'm happy and I know he feels satisfied after a long day's work coming home to the smell of dinner, a well-kept home and happy children."

It isn't submitting to 'men', it is just giving my husband the lead in things which are more important to him than me.

LAUREN*, 38
Lauren*, 38, worked as a PA before quitting her full-time job aged 31 to become a housewife. She discovered the Trad Wife movement after following a website called Brocante Home, which is all about keeping house the old fashioned way. She later discovered The Darling Academy on Instagram.
Lauren receives a £400 monthly housekeeping allowance from her husband to buy groceries, toiletries and items for her children. She also receives £200 for her mobile phone and anything else she wants to spend it on. Lauren is clear that the backlash the movement has received is based on misunderstandings.
"The biggest misconception is the whole attitude towards husbands. He doesn't make me stay at home, he doesn't demand, he doesn't expect. He works long, hard hours.
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"I make him lunch because it saves him time and money at lunchtime, is healthier and tastier, and is a little way I can show him I love him. Nobody is making me do that. It isn't submitting to 'men', it is just giving my husband the lead in things which are more important to him than me."
On whether the TradWives movement contradicts modern feminism, Lauren says she sees staying at home to raise her own children as a "political act of rebellion against the oppression of women".

I see staying at home to raise my children as a political act of rebellion against the oppression of women.

Lauren*, 38
She adds: "Modern feminism should mean that we are all feminists: men, women, non-binary, married, single, polyamorous.
"Femininity has different definitions and mine isn't the only one. For me, I only ever wear dresses. I don't look good or feel good in trousers. I nearly always wear red lipstick. Before having children, I always had red nails and liked wearing high heels."
She adds: "I hope women for who it is a good fit will embrace it. For women who do not want to live like this, I hope it will pass them by. I would not want to be forced to go to work because someone else thought it was the right thing.
"You can be a #TradWife and be FOR all women and their choices. You can be a #TradWife and be politically engaged, informed and active. We're not vacuous just because we vacuum."
*Some names have been changed at the interviewees' requests.

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