Women Who Were 20th Century "Tradwives" Are Sharing What The Lifestyle Was Actually Like, And You Need To Read This To Believe It

If you haven't heard the term "tradwife" before, it's basically exactly what it sounds like: people are romanticizing the housewife lifestyle of roughly the 1950s and '60s and advocating for a return of what they deem as "traditional values" — AKA women staying home, not working, and serving their husbands.

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Some influencers, like Nara Smith or Hannah of Ballerina Farm, make beautiful videos (and a lot of money) advocating for the "tradwife" lifestyle. It can be fun to watch people do "trad" things like make butter from scratch; but, as other creators have pointed out, these influencers pretty much exist to sell women on an unhealthy lifestyle that they don't actually live themselves.

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Recently, Reddit user u/IveGotIssues9918 turned to the Reddit page "Ask Old People" to ask women who "actually were mid-20th Century 'tradwives'" what they would say to young women today about that lifestyle. So — in the interest of getting perspective from those who actually witnessed it — here are some of the top-voted comments.

1.User kateinoly, a woman in her 60s, says that for her, being a tradwife was "isolating and frustrating, as the work is never done. I tended to obsess over cleaning-type things (mopping daily), and did not like not having my own money."

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2.One woman, u/Bergenia1, says, "It's terribly risky. You are staking the survival of yourself and your children on a man. So many women have been dumped for a trophy girlfriend after twenty years of loyal service to a husband, and left penniless with no job skills."

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3.Another woman, u/Sheila_Monarch, points out that "even for 'old people,' on Reddit, you’re still talking about our grandmothers, or at best, mothers." So, keep in mind that many of these stories are about people's moms.

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Sheila then adds, "From what I witnessed of it, it’s thankless and miserable. [People were] financially trapped and controlled. And that’s the GOOD ones."

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4."My mom was a tradwife," says u/theweebird, and "based on conversations with her over the years, she'd probably tell those young women, 'There's nothing wrong with learning and mastering the domestic arts. You should always be proud of yourself for learning new skills and keeping a nice home. But..."

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5."I was the wife of a minister. But I chose to stay home and raise the kids. I also worked at the church and just took my kids with me everywhere I went. This was my decision and was extremely important to me," writes u/traceyrenee53.

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6."I got married in the 90s," says u/Reneeisme, "But all the women in my grandmother’s and mother’s generations fit that bill, and they were miserable and trapped and dehumanized and left with no options and it made them mean."

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7."It was fulfilling joy in my life," says u/C-Nor; "I loved it. There were frustrations (as with any job) and fears (all lives get that), but I was glad to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn't ever like that I wa treated by society as a lesser person for it."

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8."It was so lonely," says 60-year-old u/naliedel.

9."My mother was the typical trapped Christian tradwife," u/candmjjjc writes. "She had three daughters and told us constantly that we needed to be self-sufficient and never rely on a man."

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A woman with light hair in a plaid skirt and holding a bag smiles and embraces a young girl with long hair in jeans in front of a house
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A person in a sleeveless dress is handing their credit card to another individual holding a card reader at a checkout counter

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"When she was first married, as a woman she could not get her own bank account or credit card without my father's permission. She had no identity other than Mrs. Dad's First Name/Last name.

My father kept an iron grip on her and she was very depressed. I made sure that I could always fully support myself. I would never put myself in that position because I grew up seeing the abuse perpetuated on so many women by their husbands. Never, ever, ever give away your power and identity to another. I believe in equal partnership in a relationship."

10.One woman, u/Handbag_Lady, added an anecdote not about herself, but a friend. She writes, "My friend is a tiny bit older than I am but was [a] mother, homemaker, [and] hostess for business dinners — seriously!"

"[She] gave up her STEM job for the whole mom/wife thing," she continues. "[Her] husband traded her in for a younger model after 27 years. I would never suggest anyone do this without a viable income."

11."Make sure you're left with a way to support yourself and all of your children should you be left alone with them when you get a little older," says u/thenletskeepdancing.

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"Chances are pretty good you will be. Forty-three percent of first marriages break-up within 15 years."

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12."My grandma didn't really want to get married, and had desperately wanted to become a doctor," writes u/ih8comingupwithnames. "She was married after the partition [of] India [and] Pakistan in 1948, [and] it was arranged. Before then she had been quite politically active, having been arrested among others protesting the British occupation."

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Two surgeons in operating room attire, including masks and scrubs, are performing a surgery under bright lights
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Two people sit by a serene lake, one with their arm around the other, conveying a sense of comfort and connection

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"I think she always felt unfulfilled... My grandmother was adamant about all of us finishing our education and got mad at my mom when she heard I was taking sewing classes at the community center one summer. She didn't want me stuck doing that type of work.

[She] taught me how important it was to have your own money... She taught me that having a career and education is very important for women. I think if she'd had the option she wouldn't have gotten married and probably been child-free.

She was a very strong woman who taught me strength and to go after my dreams since she didn't get the opportunity to do so. Sorry for the rant, but she definitely did not want us to become housewives, and tried her best to have her own secret money always."

13."Whether or not you choose to be home with your children while they're young, prepare yourself to be able to work and make a living," offers u/Separate_Farm7131.

"You never know what is going to happen. Be prepared to not have much money beyond essentials. Be prepared to be somewhat isolated, as most women work now. It's not like my parents' generation, when most married women were home with kids and there were lots of opportunities to socialize."

14.u/Userdataunavailable tells the story of their grandmother, who "raised five kids on the prairies in the '40s. She worked from before dawn until midnight."

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15."It is ripe for abuse," says u/Fabulous-Ad6663. "It didn't end well for me and now I am disabled."

"PTSD & a more severe case of EDS than I should've had. Got diagnosed during the divorce process, thankfully."

16.U/TDLMTH tells the story of their father, who "was visiting family after his mother passed away in her late 80s. As he tells it, the scene was "himself, my stepmother, a number of my grandmother’s sisters, and assorted friends of my grandmother and great-aunts, mostly women."

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"My father was talking to a woman whose husband had recently died. She, like pretty much every woman there, had been married her entire life and had lived as a 'tradwife.' At one point, she looked at my father and said, 'I had forgotten that men could be kind.'"

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17."My mother was [a] tradwife," says u/wwaxwork, a woman over 50. "Watching her life is why, at the age of 8, I swore never to have kids. And now, safely post-menopause, I can confirm I never did."

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18."I did both, stayed at home until kids were in school, worked as a teacher before and after," writes u/Happygar. I recommend women [who] want families to find a job that works with kids' schedules or work part-time when they are young."

19.And finally: "Being a 'tradwife'" writes u/SeaRice7236, (in terms of the the modern, nostalgic movement promoting the lifestyle) "is an idealized version of what the reality was. [These people] are 'playing' house."

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Let me know your thoughts on all of the above. And if you have your own story involving a "traditional" marriage, please feel free to share down below.

Please note: some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.