HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: 'TikTok's tradwives are self-harm for millennial mothers.'

Buttermilk pancakes and banana pudding with hand-whipped cream.

Home-baked sourdough and frolicking baby goats.

Jars brimming with warm fresh milk and kitchens full of yellow-haired babies.

Evening dresses for date night. Full-face make-up for muffin whisking.

You've seen them. We all have. The trad wives of TikTok and Instagram, platform-leaping onto our homepages and news sites.

They sure look pretty.

Tiny children's chubby fists full of fresh banana bread.

Handsome man's arms looping around a waist as hands knead glossy dough.

Sometimes the women are gazing out at a pretty garden, cradling a milky tea at 11am.

Sometimes they're looking right at you, assuring you not to be fooled by hustle culture. That being a "corporate girly" or a "boss babe" is a fool's errand. That being home, nurturing family, cooking and cleaning and dedicating yourself to your man and your babies is the path to true fulfilment.

"Find a man who loves to work so you can stay home and bake all day."

These words run across a post from a beautiful Australian mother-of-two whose yoga pants and linen aesthetic is part van life, part Wisteria Lane.

Others read: "Yeah, I probably could do anything a man could, but I'd much rather bake bread and frolic around the house all day."

And: "Women weren't created to work a 9-5 job outside the home. They were created to work 24/7 inside the home."

Some of these accounts come with a side of religion. Some come with a message about whole foods, clean eating and wellness. Some are hustling within the anti-hustle, selling you products from their rustic kitchens.


These women are rebels.

When the culture is telling us to push harder, get more, do more, be more, they are saying no. Be less. Be one thing and do it well. Calm down. It's lovely here, they say, opting out of the day-care drop off, the emails at 9pm, the work shifts that don't match baby care, the guilt at hoping against hope that the cough subsides before school bell, the mascara in the rear-view mirror, the frantic supermarket dash after work to grab whatever collection of chemically-enhanced flavouring will be ready quickest.

Watch: A spoken word video starring Laura Bryne articulating the contradiction of pressures that mothers face in their daily lives. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

These women are also sent to torture us.

Even the most ambitious among us would sometimes like a nice lie down on a pristine daybed in a clean home that smells of cake.

To have a moment or 10 to sing songs and twirl with our pre-schoolers in the morning, instead of just yelling "shoes" for eight straight minutes as we pack bags and wipe counters and feel every second click closer to late. 

Even those of us who love our out-of-home work would sometimes like to slow down, breathe, and mono-task.


Eat better, fresher, cleaner.

Have a minute for yoga, or pilates, or whatever it is that's making these women with so many babies appear so very firm.

Maybe we'd love to have more children than we have. Or any at all.

And almost certainly, we have all fantasised about what it might be like to have someone else take the load from us, even for a moment.

But this is 2024, and there's rent. Or mortgage. Which, within coo-ee of a capital city, is not a thing that can be borne by one person for very long.

For late millennials and Gen Zs who have all but given up on the likelihood of home ownership, there's the improbability of living in the kind of house that can accommodate bread-baking and content creation, chicken coops and bedrooms for all those pretty offspring.

There's the reality of wage stagnation slamming into the rising cost of absolutely everything.

There are our partners, if they're around. The reality of their earning power. The parameters of their own ambition, their own inconvenient dreams and desires to be more than an absent provider. Their limitations in the strong-forearms-around-the-waist department.

Then there's our own pesky ambition, fuelled by our education and our very real experience of the self-worth that comes with achievement and independence.

And there's the nagging reality that cooking and cleaning and caring all day is rarely as calming and photogenic as it is inside the carefully curated worlds of the trad wives.

Caring is work. Hard work. It comes with its own frustrations and setbacks, messes and compromises. It's exhausting and relentless. It requires a level of self-sacrifice, in tiny ways, in enormous ways, that are as hard to reconcile as a s**tty performance review from your middle-level manager. Small children are ruthless bosses.


And then there's the fact that being financially dependent on a man is a high-risk proposition at a time when one in three marriages end in divorce, and divorce is not kind to women. And that's without any addition of controlling behaviour or abuse, a very ordinary nightmare that can turn your domestic palace into a prison with pleasing bench tops.

Still, we can live in this spiky fantasy place for a while, watching Ballerina Farm make crumpets in snowy Utah. Or Nara Smith bakes bread as a silk negligee hugs her neat pregnant stomach.

And we can think, we should be more like them. We could be more like them. They seem so happy, and unstressed. Their children seem so well-behaved and adequately nourished. No one's on a screen. No one's screaming at anyone else. No one's eating chips from Maccas because there was nothing for dinner and it's 7pm.

It's balm, and it's fantasy and ultimately, it's self-harm. Because while a choice-feminist world — the kind where we all get to choose everything from the number of children we have to the number of hours we work — is a seductive place, it's also an illusion for almost everyone.

So don't torture yourself. That sourdough yeast is a bugger to get out of a linen maxi.

How do you feel about tradwives? Tell us in the comments section below.

Feature image: Instagram @naraaziza, @jasminedinis, and @ballerinafarm.

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