Help, I’m Obsessed With Trad Wife Influencers!

Maybe this is the kind of life I would have had if I had just done a few things differently.

A home that doesn’t belong to any of the trad wives I follow…as far as I know. Photo by Bertrand Bouchez on Unsplash

No matter where you run, you cannot hide from the realities of our cruel, cold world. I should know. Over the past 10 months I’ve tried everything: Spending money, spending less money, doing yoga, riding my dumb stationary bike, watching Gossip Girl. But at the end of the day, when I am still in my stupid little apartment and my brain is still on fire, I do have one last outlet I turn to to avoid the crushing reality of, well, everything: My trad wife influencers.

Lucky for me, my two best friends went to a small liberal arts college with a woman who became a devout wife, mother, and follower of Christ. This woman lives in the midwest, spends her days as a homemaker and homesteader, and also runs a fairly popular Instagram account where she proselytizes the wholesome goodness of a simple, God-driven lifestyle—cooking for her family, sewing aprons and skirts she sells on Etsy, reading the Bible cover to cover, and putting hand-knit bonnets on her sons’ heads. The whole thing feels very Little House on the Prairie.

Her life is so simple! She bakes oat muffins and grain-free quiche and she cans pears to save for the winter. She lights tall, tapered candles and puts them around her house during the day—like, when it is still light outside. She makes big, hearty meals for dinner. She had a birthday party for one of her sons during Covid and wrote a batshit post explaining her decision to host a big indoor gathering for him. (“Isolation has created more mental sickness than it has prevented physical sickness. We must be careful, but not so careful that we lose the ones we love. We may never know how important it is for a child to see their grandparents on their birthday.”) She wears ankle-length skirts out in the snow. In one post, she talks about flushing out theory she learned in college from her brain and replacing it with scripture.

My friends mentioned this woman so much that she became a spectral fourth member of our group chat, so I became one of her many tens of thousands of Instagram followers. Then my friend Kate wrote an article about how following this woman’s follies made her want to go full trad wife (A trad wife, if you have somehow made it this far without Googling it, is a traditional wife — one who sticks to traditional gender roles and broadcasts it on social media).

Kate noticed a lot of traffic to her story was coming from Reddit — in particular, a subreddit called r/fundiesnark, which seems similar to r/blogsnark, a different subreddit for people who have learned everything there is to learn about influencers and use their chosen forum as a place to dissect them. R/fundiesnark is entirely about fundamentalist Christian influencers and their ilk. People go there, post screenshots from trad wife Instagram and YouTube influencer accounts, and proceed to talk shit.

The trad wife I follow — along with careful research into her self-timer camera clicker she tries and fails to obscure in every photograph of her youngest child by placing him flat on his back on the cold, hard ground — appears to be a fan favorite, a dubious distinction on r/fundiesnark. So are trad influencers Girl Defined, The Collins Kids, and Paul & Morgan. Recent r/fundiesnark posts include topics like “does anyone know what fundies think of ivanka trump?” and “In honor of inauguration…here’s your local Karen freaking out about Biden winning!!”

VICE recently ran a story about how some of these fundie influencers are reaching hundreds of thousands of people on YouTube by talking about anti-abortion and abstinence. Some fundies lean heavily on aesthetics—baking bread, sewing, taking care of their kids—and avoid talking politics altogether. But some of the more outspoken ones lean heavily into their own polarizing bits, endorsing Qanon conspiracy theories, white supremacy, and ~just asking questions~ about the safety and efficacy of vaccines. It’s the same tired and dangerous talking points that have been beaten to death elsewhere by other people, only now they’re being spouted by 26-year-old women who know how to use Canva.

I started following some of these trad wives, the more aesthetic-based ones and not the more pernicious ones with out-there, far-right politics. (Even the political views of the more “I’m a homemaker, I read the Bible!” trads are the opposite of mine.) We have nothing in common. The religious content is a bit heavy handed for my personal sensibilities. They homeschooled their kids before it became medically necessary to do so because of Covid. They would take one look at my boring life in Brooklyn and call me a baby-killer communist hedonist whose eggs are dying, or something.

And yet here I am, scrolling through my feed, undeterred, unbothered, with an air of parasocial familiarity that I’d absolutely loathe to have applied to me and my boring Instagram, or worse, my Twitter. “Kelly’s plugging Levi’s woodworking side hustle again,” I inform the group chat. “His cutting boards look like shit.” Nobody in my life is completely off the hook from having to know about these people. “Is he wearing special trad glasses? He looks like he just moved to a frontier town to be a doctor,” my boyfriend texts me in response to a picture I sent him of the aforementioned husband. “What’s a trad wife?” my sister asks.

Part of the appeal of following these people comes from observing what kind of life I’d have had if I had just done a few things differently. It’s kind of like reactivating Facebook and checking in on people from high school who you haven’t thought about in 10 years, just to see what they’re up to, or going to the bar in your hometown on Thanksgiving Eve. If I hadn’t left the state for college, if I’d married someone right after high school, if I had reprioritized my life when I was 17—maybe that could be me with 38k Instagram followers, seven sons under the age of 10, and a house on a farm in Montana, a self-described “mama.”

In my own bubble, my friends are pairing off, getting married, buying houses and settling down. The aspirational lifestyle for my peers is moving to rural-ish upstate New York and homesteading. This is not altogether different from what the trad wives do aesthetically, but nobody I know does any of this kind of staid adulting with religiously driven fervor or for any kind of higher purpose — they’re just hoping to save some money and stay in love.

To be honest, I’m also drawn in by this grasp for simplicity I’ve been struggling with for a while. I did so many things last year to change my life when I was desperately unhappy, global pandemic aside. I moved into a new apartment. I started volunteering with my local mutual aid group in my new neighborhood. I got a new job, in a new industry. I worked out regularly. I started seeing a therapist and journaling. I stopped inhaling the news. I turned off push notifications. I’ve done so much to pare down my life, to strip away the worst of it. And yet in many ways I still want less.

So I understand the impulse. But while the trad wives’ response to wanting a simple life is to have 10 million white babies and photograph them on the ground and then put the whole thing on Instagram, mine is simply to chill out a bit. I don’t actually want to be a trad wife, but I understand the appeal of wanting to live a simpler life, one where perhaps you don’t read the news at all, live in blissful ignorance, read exactly one book, feed your family dinner every night, iron your husband Thaddeus’s work shirts, and insist on dressing like Anne of Green Gables for some reason.

Thankfully I don’t have to do any of these things to experience what this might be like, For now, it’s just enough to live vicariously through the trad wives I follow on Instagram as a form of voyeuristic escapism.

i’m a freelance writer and editor. you can also read me in places like the new york times and vanity fair.

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