Why My Heart Breaks for TradWife Influencers

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Life | 71 comments

Compassion for Tradwife Influencers

I’m finding the new trend of tradwife influencers rather distressing.

You know those accounts–that hearken back the 1950s housewife, and espouse a life where the husband brings home the paycheque, makes the decisions, and is in authority of the wife, while she does absolutely everything else? (and I know there are fake tradwife accounts making a ton of money, but I’m thinking of the Christian ones talking about submission and quoting Love & Respect).

But before I get into all of that, a story.

I started blogging in 2008. At the time, “mom blogs” were all the rage–women writing blogs about parenting, booking, organizing, housework, general faith. People were posting pics of their kids, and recipes, and their cleaning routines. They were showing how they taught their kids to do chores. How they homeschooled. How they kept their marriages strong.

These blogs were BIG. The biggest bloggers were getting book contracts. And I was in that group. I knew a lot of them. We sold bundles of resources together. We linked up on each other’s blogs to find new traffic and new friends. 

But what I noticed was that the vast majority of them were teaching one-sided submission in marriage, where the secret of a great marriage was in how they deferred to their husband and followed his leadership.

I have always felt that the biblical call was that we follow Jesus while serving each other, and that this call is not gendered. Women do not stop following Jesus once they marry, and we don’t follow Jesus by proxy by following our husbands. We follow the Lord, and then we serve one another. 

But I couldn’t say that outright or I’d get blacklisted, so I wrote about what it looked like to follow Jesus as a woman without using submission language–and people often got it.

Over the years, though, I watched as many of the biggest names in those circles eventually divorced. Many had husbands who left them or had affairs. Many discovered porn use. Or many, like Natalie Hoffman or Alyssa Wakefield or Tia Levings, eventually disclosed that they had been in abusive marriages, and did a total 180. 

That latter group I’m still in contact with. 

If you were to go back in time and see who was big in the Christian wife space in 2008, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of them are divorced now. 

There is something about the kind of person who chooses to put their life online that is often covering up for deep problems that they don’t want to admit to themselves.

Tia Levings, who came out of a Gothard like marriage, and whose story was included in the documentary Shiny, Happy People, wrote a post last week saying this:

 But the truth is, even if I’d wanted birth control, child care, and a career, I couldn’t have had it. I don’t have a college education and I didn’t have access to any of those other options. In addition to home being “my highest call,” “traditional,” “biblical,” and “valued,” staying home was also safe and necessary. Through a series of groomed choices in evangelicalism, home was about the only place I was qualified to be.

So, I saw the benefit of promoting a single-income lifestyle, embracing voluntary poverty and simplicity, traditional values, gardening, homesteading, canning, homeschooling, used clothing, etc. And I wanted my children’s childhood to be happy and nurturing, my husband’s mental state to remain calm, and to uphold the word of God. I would have done this with the same ethos I bring to my work now: an attention to warmth and kindness, research, visual aesthetics, and reason backed with experience. I would have been complicit in converting future perpetuators and perpetrators to the trad wife lifestyle. I would have made pretty memes.

Tia Levings

Substack, "I Would Have Been a TradWife Influencer"

Today’s tradwife influencers are the new mom bloggers.

There’s a raft of them on Instagram and Twitter and Tiktok, promoting the stay at home mom movement, complete with long skirts, baking bread, homeschooling, essential oils, and more. 

Not all of it is toxic, of course. Baking is amazing if it’s your thing. Staying at home with your kids can be a tremendous blessing, if you can financially afford it (One of the things I’m most grateful for in my life is that we could). 

But so often this is paired with deep patriarchy. Many of today’s tradwife influencers brag about how they’re not really educating their daughters to be anything other than housewives, because that is what God has called them to be. They brag about how they have sex on demand because their job is to satisfy their husbands. They brag about how they obey their husbands.

Marissa Burt and her co-author Kelsey are taking on the latest tradwife influencers, and Tia Levings’ post is a good overview.

(Tia does use some strong language, but she is so knowledgeable about this stuff and I really appreciate her attempt to call the Christian community to something better. Hers is a voice worth listening to, and I’m looking forward to her book A Well-Trained Wife).

I’m often asked to call out tradwife influencers.

I get sent their posts on Instagram, and people will say, “can you say something about this? Can you call her out?”

We’ve talked about this as a team, and we do see how dangerous this trend is. These influencers are amassing hundreds of thousands of followers (millions if you add them all together). They are espousing everything that is in the books we are calling out, and even when these books stop selling, these influencers will continue these teachings in a new way.

The problem is that there is a fundamental difference between authors who write toxic stuff and a typical tradwife influencer.

An author is someone who is trying to be a teacher. They have the gravitas of a publishing company behind them, and speaking invitations.

A tradwife influencer often is in her twenties, alone except for her online friends, and just trying to make a living through potential sponsorships.

And, more than likely, in ten years their lives will look very different. We found in our survey for The Great Sex Rescue that couples where the husband makes the final decisions (as the tradwife influencers support) are 7.4 times more likely to divorce. These marriages don’t tend to be stable long-term.

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And since what they’re teaching is not compatible with true intimacy (you can’t be intimate unless you are a real partner, and you can’t be a real partner if only one person’s needs matter in the relationship, and if you feel that you have to give sex on demand), abuse is more common in these marriages too.

But if they were being abused, would they be making these reels and posting this?

Yes, absolutely they would. As Tia Levings said, it’s a way of making sense of what’s going on.

If I’d had social media available to me in the early 2000’s, I’d undoubtedly be using the hashtag, posting photos of my canning, gardening, homeopathy, baking, quiverful-in-a-dress aesthetic. I’d be doing in public exactly what I was doing in private: spit-shining sh** to protect my husband’s secrets and my family’s appearance, so I wouldn’t bring shame on the word of God. The stakes didn’t come any higher than that. My heels could feel the flickering flames of hell. Suddenly housework becomes esteemed and important……

For every good and beautiful truth about eating wholesome meals, using cloth diapers, and reading aloud to children, there’s a shadow of control, shame, and self-denial to the point of annihilation.

Tia Levings

Substack, "I Would Have Been a Trad Wife Influencer"

And I know from experience that that’s what so many mom bloggers were doing back in the aughts when I started.

When I see a tradwife influencer, I feel such tremendous pity, because I also feel like I’m looking into her future, and it’s not great. 

If we were to call out tradwife influencers by name, I feel like we’d be bullies.

Even if they have more followers on Instagram than I do, I’m actually more influential and I have gravitas. And I just can’t be a bully to young women who are in difficult situations that they may not even have had the maturity to freely choose themselves. 

So what should we do about tradwife influencers?

A few strategies:

1. Stop following tradwife influencers.

The more you follow, like, comment, the more their engagement goes up. Don’t follow even to watch the train wreck or to laugh at them. Just unfollow.

The way engagement works on social media, the more people engage, the more likely that platform is to show the stuff to other people. So by engaging on it, you spread the content. If you don’t want to do that, unfollow. Tell Instagram, when you see tradwife accounts, “I don’t like things like this.”

2. If you need to comment on tradwife posts, talk to the abuse victim reading. 

Don’t be angry, but be compassionate. 

I’m glad you look so happy, and I wish you and your family all the best! However, I just have to point out that what you’re advocating for is actually dangerous in most situations. Sex is not something to just be “given on demand”, because you matter too. The obligation sex message you’re teaching is one of the big reasons that evangelical women suffer from sexual pain at twice the rate of the general population. Over 20% of the women reading this post likely experience sexual pain, and I just want to tell them: You matter. God created sex to be for both of you. If you’re feeling pain, please don’t just push through it. See a pelvic floor therapist, and read The Great Sex Rescue!

 

Something like that. 

3. Remember that, if you do comment, you’re more likely commenting to lurkers than the influencer. 

You’re unlikely to sway the influencer, but all of those people reading need to be pointed to something healthy. So drop tags of good accounts, or mention good books or podcasts. 

(And then, after you do that, unfollow!).

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I’m asking you all to be my army to combat the tradwife influencer trend.

I can’t do it. I can only fight against the teachings, but I can’t beat up on young women who are likely putting up a very strong facade. 

I have seen the mommy bloggers on the other side of their husbands’ affairs, abuse, and porn use. 

Good men do not want their wives to make themselves invisible and to just serve them. Good men want true partners. So these women aren’t actually married to good men.

So please, unfollow as much as you can, and if something crosses your feed you must comment on, think about what the lurkers need to hear to be given a different perspective, and point them to a good resource or podcast or book before you leave. 

And if you know any in real life, check in on them every once in a while, and be there if (or when) it all self-destructs.

Why I have compassion for tradwife influencers on instagram and tiktok

What do you think? Why are tradwife influencers so popular? What would get through to them (and their followers?) Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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71 Comments

  1. Molly Peavy

    I like this post. I think the reason tradwife influencers are so popular is because there’s so many young women looking for guidance in marriage. I remember looking 10 years ago (and God help me, I found Transformed Wife, her teachings were toxic but she was so good at twisting scripture it took me a good year and a half before I saw the toxicity!). These influencers make their married lives look like fairy tales and when newlywed women are out there, worried they aren’t a good enough wife, these fairy tales look so enticing. “If this influencer believes/follows these teachings and their life looks like that, then if I follow the same teachings my life will become a fairytale too”. So many women are looking to other women for guidance and unfortunately there’s so much out there that looks shiny and wonderful but is really toxic. I am raising my girls to have discernment and am making sure my husband and I model a truly Godly marriage for them but my heart hurts for the women and girls being tricked into living out these evil teachings. God wants so much better for them and their relationships.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think that’s absolutely happening! That’s why the whole movement scares me so much.

      Reply
  2. Angharad

    I wonder if a lot of them are women of high ability who could have successful careers if they hadn’t been raised to believe that is ‘sinful’, and so running a website/Instagram/YouTube channel etc is their way of channelling all that frustrated creativity and talent. And I agree that calling them out by name would feel a bit like bullying. If you’ve never been told a different way is possible, how would you know one exists?

    As for the popularity – there seems to be a general trend towards simplicity, minimalism and slow, relational living at the moment (and there’s a lot that is healthy and good about this!). The Tradwife movement is just the more extreme end of this, and people in their teens and 20s are often very vulnerable towards extremes. They have so much energy and passion to see the world changed, and it’s easy to feel that the more ‘extreme’ you are, the more change you will see. Balance comes with age…but sadly, most of us also lose a bit of our energy and passion on the way!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that’s absolutely it! So many of these women are brilliant, and this is their way of starting a business in the only route that’s open to them!

      Reply
      • Colleen

        Everything that you guys are saying on here is so true. I’m also concerned not just about the blogging but all of these social media groups. I’ve been following one that I thought was going to be a Lisa turkhurst group but ended up being just a bunch of women constantly trying to live up to this impossible ideal of submission. I just see nothing but abuse and women that feel that they have no recourse. It seems very cult-like and like brainwashing. It’s exactly what Sheila is trying to fight against everywhere. This kind of teaching has bothered me since I was a teen and I’m in my mid-50s now. I think what saddens me the most is that it seems that most of the Christian world has never done anything to champion women’s rights. It’s been secular society that has spurred on the woman’s movement for equal rights and has highlighted spousal abuse, child abuse, etc. If we had waited on the church, we would still be waiting to be thought of as equal human beings with the same amount of intelligence, emotional discernment, and ability to make reasonable decisions. How this has happened,and continues to happen, is very discouraging.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, it is really, really hard to deal with the fact that over the last 100 years, women were treated far better in secular society than in the church. I’ve personally found that really, really difficult.

          Reply
        • Laura

          Colleen,

          I have read a few of Lysa’s books, but now that she’s going through a divorce, I think she may have changed her tune a bit. I hope so, but not sure. One of her most recent books is about boundaries which had never been taught in women’s Bible studies. If I brought up the importance of setting boundaries, I was met with silent hostility and told I was being sinful and that I needed to ask God to change my heart.

          Reply
          • Lisa Johns

            To give Lysa credit, she has been through years of therapy and learning boundaries at this point. She has had to learn the hard way just how toxic these teachings have been, and it has been a tough journey. She, like so many of us, just wanted to be the best Christian, God-honoring wife she could, even in the face of utter betrayal, and it took major upheaval to make her realize that the traditional teachings weren’t going to get her there — as with so many of us. Her heart is in the right place and she is figuring things out as we all are. I would love to hear a conversation amongst her Sheila, and Rebecca!

          • Nessie

            Agree, Lisa Johns.

            I have tried some of her books in the past and they just felt too “fluffy” for me as I am not the “typical” wife. But I think she has/is growing with her personal experiences.

            I, too, would love to hear her along with Sheila and team.

  3. April

    Hi Sheila

    Thanks for sharing I listed to Paul and Morgan in the past even though she is considered Christian influencer. It seems like she had to look up to her husband before she could speak in the video and just seemed off to me in the videos. So I no longer watch their stuff. But when I did I commented on the YouTube video to read the Great Sex Rescue. I hope they read it in time.

    Reply
    • Laura

      I’ve seen several Paul and Morgan videos through other YouTube accounts and I noticed the same things you did. Their dynamics are far from healthy. She always looks nervous or spaced out. He is just smug and arrogant.

      Reply
  4. Ruth

    I know this is only part of the tradwife teaching, but I’m alway so heartbroken when people talk about raising daughters to just be housewives. I grew up in a pretty traditional setting and was raised to be a housewife–baking, sewing, keeping house, gardening, canning, hosting guests, etc. (a lot of really useful skills). But God hasn’t led me to marriage.

    Thankfully, I’ve always been independent enough to find a path that doesn’t depend on a husband and I always had dreams for more than just marriage and motherhood, but I have friends who also grew up in that setting who have come to me weeping because they were raised to be housewives and yet God hasn’t given them a husband. They’re at a loss as far as what to do with their lives because they were never allowed to dream of anything other than marriage and children. They’re working jobs they don’t like because they never expected to have to consider what they might like and they were never given the opportunity to get an education to develop skills outside of wife and motherhood.

    This teaching depends on the naive assumption that if someone wants to marry they will. Please, for the love of your children, teach them that God may or may not have marriage for them and that they can have beautiful, fulfilled lives either way!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen, Ruth! This is so, so important to remember.

      Reply
    • Laura

      I have been single for most of my adult life so I can relate to this. At 47, I’ll be getting married soon. It is necessary for everyone to get some type of training or education after high school. Many of these women who have been homemakers since their twenties will likely become empty-nesters in their 40s, so what will they do with themselves after the children leave home?

      Reply
    • Rae Stanwood

      Being raised in a Christian household, my mother frequently has asked me when I am going to get married, have children or how I feel about my partner not wanting marriage. I know she has done more than just marriage and motherhood, she has a successful career, hobbies and many other friends outside the church. She does not understand why I would not want the same life path as her. I want more in my life than motherhood, in fact, I never want to get married or have my own children and nothing is wrong with that.

      Reply
  5. Cheyenne

    It’s strange how so much criticism is levied at other women who choose to do things differently than we do. Is it jealousy that they at least profess to be happy and appear to have less conflict in their homes over gender roles and scripture interpretation?

    These tradwives are just as capable, intelligent, and strong as any other woman who chooses to live their lives differently.

    While I don’t choose to live the tradwife lifestyle in my marriage or home, the harsh criticism levied at them here seems hypocritical. I thought women wanted to build each other up and support their ability to choose how they want to live?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The problem is that what they are teaching actively harms. When you teach that men must be in authority over women, must make the decisions, we know that does harm, in the same way that we know the book Love & Respect does harm.

      When we teach that wives must give sex on demand, that does harm. It’s one of the big reasons for evangelical women suffering from vaginismus at twice the rate of the general population.

      When you look at what they are teaching, and correlate it with risk of divorce, they have a substantially higher risk of divorce than your average Christian women, and a substantially greater risk of being abused.

      That should matter to us. I feel so much for these young women. Some of them will be fine, but many won’t. And that should matter to us, especially because they are simultaneously influencing others to pursue the same types of marriage dynamics.

      Reply
      • Cheyenne

        But any individual (women or men) cannot be influenced unless they choose to be influenced. The women in my friend groups (professionally and personally), many of which are still in their twenties, are very capable of choosing what teachings work for them and what teachings don’t.

        To say that these tradwives (or any woman for that matter) are incapable or unwilling to discern what may or may not be harmful, and incapable or unwilling to make a personal choice on how to live their lives, would not describe most women I know.

        There is power and strength in owning personal choice versus being scared of being influenced by others. So to the tradwives who make that choice, more power to them. To those of us who choose not to live that way, more power to us. But it’s about personal choice and accountability, not some scary specter of influence.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That isn’t empirically true, Cheyenne. People get sucked in through social media. It’s why advertising works! And when people are espousing a hierarchical way of doing marriage that hurts people, that matters and should concern us.

          Reply
          • Cheyenne

            People choose to allow themselves to get sucked into social media. Advertising does not “work” on everyone, just on people who choose to support the products being advertised. That’s just factual, not subjective or even controversial. Otherwise advertising would make everyone buy everything.

            Social media does not force anyone to read it, digest it or live it out. Again, the ignoring of personal choice is pretty obvious.

            Thanks Richard, agree it does seem to be jealously of other people’s choices and personal happiness.

        • Jo R

          “But any individual (women or men) cannot be influenced unless they choose to be influenced.”

          And when all the Christian marriage and sex books, the women’s Bible studies, and Sunday preaching proclaim that wife-only subservience is God’s ordained way, for all people in all times, and to go against that choice is willful sinning against God, with the concomitant threat of being in danger of an eternity in hell,, how exactly are women (and men) supposed to avoid that influence? 🤔

          Reply
          • Cheyenne

            Well, choose not to read those books. Choose to go to a different church than the one preaching views you don’t like. Choose to find a women’s Bible study you agree with. Choose to spend time in the Bible, meditate on it with our Heavenly Father, and live it out.

            Really is a simple one word answer. Choose. We all have the intelligence and autonomy to choose.

          • Jo R

            When all the resources a woman receives all point the same way, how long does she keep looking for a different message? When all the people she speaks with says such a woman is simply in complete and utter rebellion against her God-given role? When centuries of male-centric English Bible translation has biased the bulk of the English-speaking church?

            When a woman is genuinely interested in and longs to be obedient to God, it’s hard to choose against the message that’s constantly beating on her ears. Too many women do not know the harm in these messages, and even as their spirits struggle, they internalize and blame themselves for their “sin.”

            It’s spiritual abuse that frequently leads to emotional and even physical abuse in what should be the most loving, nurturing, protecting relationship we’ll ever experience in this life.

            THAT’S the danger that Sheila and others are trying to highlight with this trend.

            I did the tradwife thing myself for thirty-two years. And then I hit the wall and COULD NOT DO IT ANY LONGER. Still working on healing almost four years later.

          • Teresa P

            Exactly, Jo R. It isn’t about making a decision on how to live your life, it is about being so brainwashed throughout your childhood and early adulthood that you only matter as a wife and mother, that you were created to serve men in whatever way they decide, and that God demands this of every woman on the planet, or else they are sinning. If you are in certain evangelical circles, it isn’t your choice, because ALL of the women come down on you if you even put your toe outside the front door to look at a different life for yourself. You end up pushing all of your thoughts and feelings down in order to live in obedience to your father, husband, pastor, and eventually your adult sons. These women have no idea that Jesus set them free from patriarchy, but they were taught that outside of it is scary and outside of God. And there is fear that if they don’t “do it right”, there will be repercussions from their family and their church. I stayed home and took care our children during the day while my husband made the bulk of the income, but that was OUR decision, not my church’s. We worked together within our skill sets, and now that we are grandparents, we both work outside of our homes and make decisions together. Some women do not have this freedom.

          • Shawn

            I remember a close friend of mine telling me to just “ignore” the things our pastor was saying/doing that were triggering to me. At the time we were in a very conservative patriarchal church. Not only did her comment make me feel very invalidated and unheard by my friend, but it also wasn’t possible at the time. It wasn’t possible for me to just pick and choose because I was deeply convinced that rejecting our pastor’s teachings was tantamount to sinful rebellious behavior. I couldn’t leave the church, although I begged my husband to leave for several years, because I had to be submissive to my husband or I was being sinful and rebellious. And, being sinful and rebellious brought fear of losing salvation, fear of eternal damnation, fear of leading my children into the fires of hell. So, yeah, could I technically have just “chosen” what I wanted? On an intellectual level yes. On an emotional and spiritual level, hell no (pun intended).

        • ALM

          You are saying people cannot be deceived unless they actively choose to be deceived. That is patently false and naive, at best. As a nurse practitioner I get to see people r their children land in the hospital often because they made the “informed choice” to follow some teaching of a peer, mentor, or influencer they admired. They were deceived and they paid the price. These young tradwife influencers are deceived themselves and are deceiving others. The harm is real , like it or not. Warning others is an act of compassion, not jealousy.

          Reply
        • Kelley

          Are you really claiming that every intelligent person can immediately discern between truth and error? This is just patently false. It’s often the intelligent who are sucked into these kinds of things precisely because they think they can’t be fooled. It’s also an unbiblical idea. Jesus and Paul both warned us about false teachers. Why would they do that if we were in no danger of believing their message? When we blame it on bad choices, we excuse the teachers. We make ourselves feel superior to those who are deceived, instead of having compassion.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Well said!

          • Taylor

            “We make ourselves feel superior to those who are deceived, instead of having compassion.”

        • Terry

          Do you believe and advocate that it’s fine to teach things that actively harm people and ruin marriages as long as we don’t know of anyone who was actually harmed? That it’s OK to teach things we know are harmful and then blame those who are influenced by those teachings and not assume any responsibility on the part of the teacher?

          She and others here have literally talked about how smart and ambitious many tradwife influencers are — and have pointed out that this is probably their only acceptable outlet for those abilities.

          If you go online and teach things, you can expect people to critique your teachings, especially if they have disastrous results. Many of us here with more life experience feel such sorrow and empathy for these young tradwife influencers because they don’t know, aren’t aware, of the fruits of their teachings in the longer run. They still have that pain ahead of them, and we wish they didn’t, and we wish those who listened to them didn’t either. That’s a good thing.

          It’s not a sin to wisely parse information, and that’s what is being done here. Nothing but love and sympathy for young tradwife influencers who haven’t yet had the life experience to see their teachings fully bear their fruit.

          Reply
    • Richard

      I think it is jealousy. I lived in a household of a traditional family and I loved spending time with my mom rather than a nanny. The criticism is hypocritical especially when reviewing the laughter directed towards men’s genitals on some of the social media posts and blogs. No one wants sickle cell disease as it can give priapism to men which certainly turns the tables on the views of modesty. People twist Proverbs 31, Isaiah chapter 3, and 1 Timothy 2.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        This is ridiculous, Richard. I homeschooled my girls all the way through school, and I stayed home with them. This post is not about that, and you are, quite frankly, raising a straw man argument in bad faith.

        But with tradwife influencers, the issue is that they also teach that men are in hierarchy over their wives.

        It is not “jealousy” that we are concerned that they are more likely to be victims of abuse and infidelity and that they are more likely to be divorced. That is compassion, not jealousy.

        Reply
      • ALM

        This is nonsense. Clearly you know nothing about these disorders and are just trying to stir up some weird controversy.

        Reply
        • Richard

          Epilepsy medications have caused priapism and I’ve personally had it. The bare marriage facebook page last summer had a blog post trying to twist the table about modesty.

          Reply
          • ALM

            Modesty has no bearing on priapism. You are making some gross and weird connections. Sheila has rightly explained that scripture does not define skin coverage as a source for lust, and that modesty is a state of heart rather than of attire. Please stop the straw man arguments. I’m not even sure what your point is at this time other than to be argumentative.

      • Rebecca G

        Richard not everything is about genitals, and absolutely no one asked. Super weird, my dude.

        Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        And yet there are children who legitimately love their nannies, who can be truly amazing people.
        and… genitals? When did they become the topic?

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          I’ve nannied for several families over the years. Those moms absolutely and without doubt loved their kids fully and I made sure their kids knew how much mama loved them
          .
          Conversely I’ve seen SAHMs who were disconnected, neglectful and even unloving, sometimes simply because they had some maturing to do still themselves.

          Signed, a SAHM of a now-adult son who turned out pretty good and knows he was loved. (He also knows there’s no absolute and correct way of raising all children- except with love.)

          Reply
    • Angharad

      Cheyenne, I’m guessing you were raised to have options. Many of these women aren’t.

      I know some women from that kind of background. As soon as they could toddle, they were being trained not only to be good housewives and mothers but also to reject anything else. Getting any more education than was necessary to run the home was ‘sinful’, working outside the home was ‘sinful’, choosing not to marry was ‘sinful’ (and I’m talking about single celibacy, not living with someone outside of marriage), befriending those who disagreed with this was ‘sinful’. These girls were raised with no skills or qualifications to get a living wage job, no experience of studying or working outside of the home and no meaningful contact with anyone who did not believe exactly as their parents did.

      If you are raised being told that only one course of action is ‘right’ and that you are destined for hell if you question it, it is very, very difficult to escape. Not only because you do not have the resources to do so, but also because you are terrified of what will happen to your soul if you do.

      Reply
    • Taylor

      I don’t see criticism here of people who want to live their lives differently. No criticism of canning or wearing skirts or homeschooling. I don’t see jealousy, either. What I do see is concern that the trad-wife influencer movement may be 1) influencing young vulnerable women into elevating this kind of life into the “best choice” or “only godly choice” instead of simply, “the choice I love that works for my family” and 2) that there is evidence that the happiness and peace portrayed by a number of these influencers may be a happy cover hiding unhealthy and even abusive dynamics.

      Many women (including myself) are raised to have no opinions of their own–the only opinions allowed are those that reinforce who ever is the most dominant person in the household. This kind of raising, and also abuse dynamics, hijack the brain’s ability to make objective choices.
      Also, people who are abusive (like domineering husbands or parents or pastors) are often very good at creating situations where the vulnerable person believes they were making their own choice when, behind the scenes, the abuser is practicing coercive control.

      Gardening, canning, living off-grid, if that’s the life you truly want to live, than great! There are influencers who thrive living this way, and who do this as a real team partnership with spouses and other family members. But if the influencer is purporting far more peace and happiness than they actually experience, and is hiding toxic home dynamics behind a facade, and this person is using a fake show of home harmony to influence others to follow their life formula (a formula that’s in reality not working for them), that’s a serious problem.

      I wasn’t a social media influencer. But in my church, I had alot of influence with other moms and married couples. I am a very smart and capable person. And I was the poster child for putting on a great face of submission and happiness in front of others AND at home, while at the same time his narcissistic tendencies and abusive behavior were killing me a little bit every day. Because that’s what I had been repeatedly taught that a good and godly wife does. It was a facade. Smart people can definitely be deceived, especially with repeated exposure to lies. (The Apostle Paul was brilliant–AND the first things the Scriptures have to say about him is that he was persecuting and hunting down Christians.

      The concern I see here isn’t about people who love to live differently. The concern is for when this lifestyle is purported as the “best” by people who are being damaged behind the scenes of promoting a lifestyle that looks good but is actually being used as a cover for damage. There’s so much shame in being abused that often the victims hide it from everyone–including their conscious selves. And victims will go to great lengths to achieve this.

      Reply
    • Denise

      I think people lobby criticism at them because they often shame women who don’t follow the tradwife lifestyle. For example, I have always worked—when they criticize women who work the tradwives are often detached from the economic reality of many families.
      It also often seems at least some of the tradwife influencers are trying to gain the attention of other men by putting down women. For example a tradwife/pick me type tells women they can’t get upset if their husband is a slob they should just happily pick up his mess.
      I have seen very few tradwife influencers that are building others up without tearing “Nontradwives” down. Some of the tradwife influencers are downright scary.

      Reply
  6. Nessie

    It’s interesting (unsurprising?) how many “mom bloggers” raised their kids with that mindset and their adult kids, now married and having babies, are passing along the same indoctrination. How many of these tradwives married young, while their brains were still developing, with the years before that full of grooming?

    I’d be very curious, with Keith being a pediatrician, to hear a podcast on brain development and how easy it is for these families to indoctrinate one generation to the next from a biological and psychological perspective. I think many people lack an awareness of how difficult it actually is to have a complete paradigm shift in one’s life of one’s previous, thoroughly hammered-home belief system.

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      That would be a great podcast!

      Reply
  7. Cheyenne

    The panicky pushback on personal accountability here really is unfortunate. It’s epidemic in western society. Individuals blame social media, blame advertising, blame teaching, blame tradition for choices they make. Life has consequences and rewards for good and bad choices. It’s the adult, human condition.

    For example, Sheila bravely chose to take on Focus on the Family here and elsewhere. I have no doubt that social media, tradition, false teachers, tradwives, and others attempted to “influence” Sheila to shrink from that challenge.

    But Sheila made a choice to move forward against FOF in the midst of attempted “influence” otherwise.

    That’s the power of choice. And it was a brave choice that Sheila made in that situation.

    Reply
    • Richard

      I agree. The purity culture movement created harm in my life. There were other false narratives and teachings like the prosperity gospel. People also forget that statistics can be skewed.

      Reply
    • Jo R

      But Sheila only started pushing back specifically on FotF in the late 2010’s. FotF had been pushing this message for DECADES before then, and they still do.

      The typical woman in her 50s and older, and possibly those younger, were mainly told the same thing: marriage and motherhood is a Christian woman’s highest calling. Millions of women felt like questioning that teaching was more or less direct disobedience to God, with a side helping of “such a woman may not actually be a Christian.” Such women often felt like they were the only one in their friend group and church who felt these qualms, so they assumed they were especially sinful and disobedient and wicked for what their souls (and the Holy Spirit) were telling them.

      With the rise of the internet, women began to find out that other women also felt the same way, that maybe marriage and motherhood were not actually a woman’s highest callings. More women began studying Greek and Hebrew, then had the ability to post their findings to a worldwide audience. Those studies have shown the male biases in many of the more popular English translations.

      In short, women find out they’re not actually alone and isolated in these “disobedient,” “sinful,” “rebellious” thoughts. And they want to warn other women about the dangers. They want to call men to treat women, and especially their wives, with the Christlike character that men should have been showing for millennia.

      If women have been brainwashed, who are the false teachers that have been doing so? Pastors, Sunday school teachers, and especially Bible translators who put their thumbs on the scales in men’s favor every chance they got.

      All of this hurts people, women most directly, yes, but also children who grow up in these environments, and the men as well, who wind up stunted in more ways than one.

      It needs to stop.

      Reply
      • Cheyenne

        If Sheila had the courage to push back in 2010 on what you say is over 50 years of FoF teaching, wow that’s even a more courageous choice in light of the attempted “influences” to sway her from challenging FoF. Glad you mentioned the history of influence she was up against.

        Again, the power of personal choice versus a mentality of being helpless to being “swayed”.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          You seem to keep missing my point.

          If the only voices a woman is exposed to is that she is in major sin and danger of hell for feeling like she wants more from life than marriage and motherhood, then how is she supposed to really exercise any kind of choice to do otherwise?

          Be glad you (apparently) have never been caught in the spiritual abuse that so many of us have been in. It is VERY hard to break free from everything you’ve ever been taught, especially when those teachings have hell as their ace in the hole.

          (And Sheila started pushing back in the LATE 10’s, not 2010.)

          Reply
        • Miss Miss

          I just wanted to point out that if Adam and Eve lived in the garden and daily walked in the physical presence of God and were still deceieved, then NONE of us are above deception.

          Yes, we are each reaponsible for our own choices. But there is a whole lot more to it than people just choosing to be decieved or not.

          Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        Jo R, this is the essence of feminism — and that’s a VERY good thing! Well stated, thank you.

        Reply
    • CMT

      Cheyenne, you keep talking about “the power of choice” as though grooming, echo chambers, and coercive control don’t exist. As though a person who was denied education and exercise of their autonomy for their entire life is just as free to choose to leave a bad life situation as a person who grew up being resourced and supported to make their own decisions. As though an abuse victim can choose switch off their trauma and calmly process all their options. That’s just not how it works. Unfortunately there are a lot of subtle and not so subtle ways people’s autonomy can be taken away. And when that happens, people can only reclaim their power to choose if they can see that other choices are possible. How are they going to do that if nobody talks about the problem, in a space where they can hear it?

      Reply
      • JG

        Coercive control does exist. My husband and I have had to minimize our contract with my parents because my dad uses coercive control often. My dad has used guilt trips and manipulation on all of us to get his way. We love him, but he seems unable to see how he treats us and others.

        As to being deceived, many people who were very intelligent, including my parents, were taken in by Gothard’s false teaching. Those who saw it as false were labeled as rebels. It gave parents the backing to control their children, even as adults. Thankfully my parents didn’t jump on the bandwagon that discouraged daughters from getting further education. Even though I am a stay at home mom now, I use my educational experience to homeschool and work from home.

        Reply
    • Wild Honey

      I think we need to be careful when comparing one person’s ability to choose with another person’s ability to choose. Because the consequences of the choices are not going to be the same for each person.

      I very much admire Sheila’s decision to stand up to Focus on the Family and loose their endorsement. I imagine that came with financial cost, in addition to the loss of friendships she’s mentioned before. But, as Sheila has openly pointed out before, her family does not rely on the income from her blog/books/etc. She could “retire and spend her days knitting” if she wanted to.

      The tradwife influencers mentioned here do not necessarily have the same resources as Sheila. They may not have had the example set before them of a woman’s strength that Sheila was blessed with in her own mother and aunts. Their husband’s incomes may not be able to support their family, so going against the party line puts them AND their spouse AND their innocent children at financial risk. They may not have a college degree (or even a high school diploma) to fall back on if their parents didn’t encourage higher education.

      Which is why it can be good to approach young tradwives with some empathy.

      And this does not even get into the grey area of personal choice vs brainwashing. My husband and I are both highly educated, generally intelligent people. We totally got duped into joining not just one, but two cult-like churches.

      Do tradwives ultimately bear some responsibility for their decisions? Of course. But placing ALL the blame for those decisions squarely on their shoulders absolves others who were complicit in influencing those decisions of any of THEIR responsibility.

      As Sheila is pointing out, statistically speaking, these young tradwives are very likely going to be feeling the consequences of their decisions with difficult marriages, vaginismus, spousal porn use or affairs, etc in the years to come.

      What we’re (or at least, I am) asking for is that those who influenced the decision ALSO face some consequences for THEIR decisions to provide negative influence. The snake in the Garden didn’t literally force a bite of forbidden fruit into Adam and Eve’s mouths. But it was also held responsible and had consequences to face.

      PS – For what it’s worth, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who sews, DIYs like crazy, bakes, gardens, and wants to learn how to can preserves. So, nope, not jealous.

      Reply
    • Stefanie

      Victim blaming much?

      Don’t worry. You have some maturing to do, and when you get some life experience, you’ll see.

      Reply
  8. Laura

    What about the older women such as The Transformed Wife (TTW) who push these ideas? I am far more disturbed by them then these young tradwives who only parrot what they’ve been taught. As for the TTW, from what I read about her, she was college-educated and had a career before she started having children. She talked about how she used to be unsubmissive, then once her marriage became one-sided submissive, suddenly, her marriage improved. I’m not sure she really believes what she preaches and any time I’ve seen her videos through other YouTube accounts, she has a sinister look as she speaks about duty sex and doing whatever your husband wants you to do. According to her, women should not have any rights and they don’t need to vote. She’s older and should know better, but it sounds pointless to call her out because from what I’ve heard in FB world, she deletes all those comments that disagree with her toxic views.

    When I have looked at older blog posts from To Love, Honor, and Vacuum from around 2015, I noticed that she used to comment on them. Was she also a Mommy blogger?

    Reply
    • Bernadette

      She has a sinister look on her face when pushing that stuff on her audience? That is weird.

      Reply
  9. kaj

    I have to keep reminding myself that there’s so much behind-the-scenes action in these “tradwife” reels and videos that we don’t see—let alone that these influencers don’t want you to see.

    For every second of a gaggle of young kids lined up, clad in perfectly-ironed togs, there’s minutes—maybe even hours—of diaper blowouts, toddler tantrums, the dog got into something, and kids being kids—doing developmentally-appropriate things that are too chaotic to make the final edit.

    Any portion of what looks like a magazine-worthy home could actually be chaotic outside of the range of the lens.

    Much of the content could be staged, “bearing false witness against your neighbor,” only with pastels and muted colors, and lots of sourdough.

    Reply
  10. Taylor

    Discernment and skill sets to recognize and address deception, toxicity, etc are NOT innate human characteristics, equally distributed to all humans. These things need to be intentionally taught, or intentionally learned. I have to regularly point out to my kids that just because “A” looks like “A” doesn’t mean it’s actually “A”–to really examine what’s being purported. Why? Because on their own they would have no idea that looking deeper is necessary. They would just accept as truth whatever was repeated the most, or looked the most interesting. (Like social influencers.)

    If a child isn’t intentionally taught to be aware and pay attention to what’s beneath the surface, it’s unlikely that they’ll aquire it by instinct. And becoming an adult isn’t some magical transformation where a person suddenly acquires these skills. At that point, learning discernment often comes at the cost of alot of pain.

    Reduced ability to discern and choose is exacerbated if as a child, a person’s discernment is actively subterfuged through gaslighting, physical punishment for inconvenient but developmentally appropriate behavior, or active abuse. Children in these situations often respond by fawning–trying to placate the dominant person–and by the silence of protecting family secrets. When a child like this becomes an adult, they often carry on the same behaviors–the survival part of their brain has become wired to make others (those with dominant voices) happy, or at least not angry.

    (Reduced ability to discern also happens when a person gets self-righteous in their passion, and gets tunnel vision, and becomes slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry.)

    No, not everyone has the same autonomous power of choice, or the same ability to identify deception and bad fruit. And insisting that they do just places victims and deceived people in more vulnerable positions and reduces the likelihood that they’ll get help.

    Also, if a person is in an active abuse situation, they may be in a situation where it would be dangerous to themselves or their children or their pets to “autonomously choose.”

    Reply
    • A

      Great comment!

      Reply
  11. Annie

    Oh to be young and naive again. (Not really.) Ive been married for 20 years and the last year has been the hardest BY FAR. Beyond the military years. Beyond the babies and toddler years. I’m no longer reeling; but still healing and walking out some waves.

    I have seen some defend themselves saying they are basically just journaling. Journaling publicly has got to hurt worse when the bad chapters come.

    We can wave the red flag; but its up to them to heed it. Id rather be a safe place to land and regroup and help someone bandage their skinned knees.

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      And there is certainly a place for that! They will eventually thank you for it!

      Reply
  12. GCB

    Sheila, I really appreciate your perspective on not chastising trad wife influencers for their harmful rhetoric; only reminding us that however harmful it might be, the women embodying and endorsing it are often struggling just as much and were given no better options in their own homes.

    I’m reminded of the moment from Jane Austen’s “Emma” at the dreaded picnic when Emma finally loses her patience with Ms. Bates’ obnoxiousness, blubbering, embarrassing-and sometimes insensitive manners-and speech, ultimately insulting her in front of their entire company to shut her up.
    During his rebuke later, Mr. Knightly himself admits to Emma that he **wouldn’t** have objected if Miss Bates was as privileged and well off as she is. But Miss Bates is going through a wallop of grief and insecurity, and being clumsy and annoying—sometimes even rude—is not the same as being hurtful.

    It isn’t about refusing to “call out” and correct the bad dynamics, it’s about remembering the context, and who is actually in power here.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly!

      (And also, I simply CANNOT WATCH that scene! It’s so, so painful. I can’t read it either. I re-read Emma every few years, and watch the movie every year, and I always skip that scene. It’s just so AWFUL!)

      Reply
      • Angharad

        I feel the same way. Because you know that deep down, Miss Bates is never going to stop hurting over that comment, however graciously she responds to Emma’s apology. I think she is one of the most underrated strong characters in fiction – she has such an impoverished, deprived life and she knows things are only going to get worse as she gets older, yet she is constantly looking out for things to be grateful about, and so kind and encouraging to everyone she meets.

        Reply
  13. Tory

    Sheila, in my experience society tends to over correct itself, and for a while we’ve had the feminist movement really gaining traction, until some maybe took it too far, and the whole tradwife movement is an over correction response to that; and I predict it will really pick up speed beyond where it is today. You’re right, most of these influencers are so young, and most of them don’t even have children yet. To me it’s cosplay

    Reply
    • Bernadette

      As far as women’s rights go we have NOT overshot. We are still playing catch up.

      Reply
    • Bernadette

      I am seeing pushback though, but I think it’s against the corporate mindset.

      Business owners tell women that having a uterus makes her worth less than a man. Because men never take maternity leave.

      (Paternity leave is optional. He won’t die because his body wasn’t allowed to recover from giving birth, since he’s not the one who gave birth.)

      But anyway.

      The world tells her that having a uterus decreases her worth.

      Meanwhile, subsets of Christianity tell her that having a uterus, and putting it to good use, is what makes her valuable.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        And is the ONLY thing that makes her valuable…

        Reply
  14. Jasnah

    This is such a gracious, measured response. Especially your last line. Having been there when it exploded for several of my friends who were in this general tradition, you’re absolutely on the right track. Starve the algorithms and just stop engaging with what is being sold to young women.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Jasnah! It just is so sad, especially for the daughters in these families. I’ve seen what happens to them too.

      Reply
  15. Deb

    The whole idea of personal and individual choice presented by a few of the above commenters is an American/western individualist way of thinking and interpreting what is “Biblical” and this perspective greatly misunderstands and misrepresents what the Bible actually IS saying. Having lived in the middle east region as a single, American white woman for over 20 years, I’m still coming to terms with how we “interpret” the Bible so “clearly” and can so definitively state that “choice” is solely individual and one can blame no other than self. That is not Biblical, that is cultural.

    Reply

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