Stay-At-Home Moms Set the Table… But Where are Their Seats?

Ava Caudle ’25

Opinion Editor

Feminism has allowed for domesticity to be a choice rather than a default. This self-determination is a gift, and despite the active decision to pursue it for many women, the fine print surrounding them seems to read, “You made the wrong choice.”

Stay-at-home mothers have increasingly utilized platforms like TikTok and Instagram to spread homemaking tips and tricks, connect with others and even make some money from sponsorships or selling digital products. Despite the positive implications of broadening social media’s reach to include moms who are often overlooked, the reception to their presence has been icy. Scroll through the comments on any modern housewife’s video online and one will find the comments flooded with accusations of regressive traditionalism, assumptions about her voting history and haughty remarks that her husband will leave her penniless for his mistress. “You made the wrong choice,” these comments repeat, “and we will berate you for making it in the same way a man would.” She is almost infantilized, treated as if her choice was not truly her own. She must be brainwashed, because if she were autonomous, surely she would surely want a corporate nine-to-five, right? The implication in the first place that women can be categorized into correct and incorrect life paths undercuts what was meant to be a movement that expanded their possibilities rather than pivoting them. Housewives currently fall into a depressing place on this spectrum — they are not good enough for the patriarchy because they are not valued in the same way their husbands are, and they are not good enough for feminist advocacy because their preferences do not align with the ideal of the career woman. Feminist thought is quick to iterate that a woman’s body and actions are her own… but when a woman films herself baking a cake for a family birthday or cleaning up after her children, those principles seem to bend.

I say this as a woman who finds deep fulfillment in my work and has no intention of living this lifestyle, but believes that feminism is reduced to a performative blanket if it snubs women who opt to be homemakers and mothers. Domestic work is labor in and of itself: a stay-at-home mom performs the roles of a nanny, housekeeper and cook on top of her eclectic managerial tasks (think laundry, shopping, etc.), all of which would normally be their own job positions with a salary to accompany them. Each of these roles, however, is deemed menial when it is performed by a homemaker instead of in the context of a “real” job. Feminist theory discusses this subjugation of the mother from both the outside world and her own family, heavily mirroring the dismissive way that social media users diminish the space that stay-at-home moms occupy. Author and psychotherapist Bonnie Burstow famously wrote, “Often father and daughter look down on mother (woman) together… They agree that she is not bright as they are, cannot reason as they do. This collusion does not save the daughter from the mother’s fate.” When we degrade the mothers we see online based on the domestic life they have chosen for themselves, we condescend their desires as trivial and their characters as one-dimensional.

Many users and journalists posit that this line of content is dangerous because some homemakers on the Internet tout their perceived superiority and ignore the privileges that come with their often-luxurious environment, acting as if their situation is the norm without acknowledging the financial circumstances that can necessitate a stay-at-home lifestyle or the possibility of being abused while in this vulnerable position. Consuming these posts can present a dishonest vision of what staying at home entails, they argue, while embedding morally coded political commentary especially common in the ultra-conventional “Tradwife” sphere of housewife content. Those critiques are completely sound, but it is also only natural that caricature-like or politically provocative accounts receive more exposure since they garner more inflammatory engagement. It is far easier to find extremity than typicality on social media, and if one does not use media literacy, the more representative and inclusive accounts from non-straight couples or working-class homemakers will seem more elusive. The most accurate sample size will not come solely from curated social media personalities, and perhaps more importantly, homemakers are not a homogeneous group to be generalized (just like any other sect of the population). By only pointing out the sensationalized types whose brands rely on public reaction, the Jane Does who want nothing more than to share their recipes and document memories with their children are dismissed as part of this nonexistent monolith.

To those who believe that domesticity and anti-feminism must be inextricably linked in the modern age, I dredge up the following genuine questions: If a woman has used her agency to be happy in a consensual marriage that happens to align with traditional gender roles, where is the empowerment in treating her decision like propaganda instead of a conscious life choice? And if she is in genuine danger instead of a blissful union, why is your instinct to kick her back down with snark instead of helping lift her back up? Feminism at its best is intersectional and all-encompassing. This means offering support for all parents, all supportive family structures, the working mom with children in daycare, and yes, the stay-at-home mom who homeschools. Becoming a mother is not a public statement but is instead a thankless act, one that will only continue to be thankless if it is treated with disregard.

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