As an early-twenty-something, I discovered and became obsessed with a blog called The Art of Manliness. Not because I fancied becoming a man, but because the articles taught practical skills like how to open a stuck jar lid, how to firmly say no without coming off like a jerk, and how to read a topographic map. Those lessons allowed me to adopt the skills of past generations. Given the popularity of the blog to this day, I suspect I’m not alone.
A new counter culture seems to be emerging, and it’s not one of rebellion, mischief, and heavy eye makeup. Rather it’s a culture of tradition. Frustration with the modern world is drawing people away from modernity and all the comes with it, from social media and public schooling to 60-hour workweeks and brutalist architecture. A growing minority of young adults crave a simple life of self-reliance and rewarding work. They want to be part of a community and work with their hands.
Many of my peers were latchkey kids. They walked themselves to the school bus starting at age seven, then walked themselves home at the end of the school day. They let themselves into the house, knew not to open the door for strangers, and watched Pokemon until their parents came home and shoved some frozen lasagna in the oven. They had tons of neat gadgets and trendy clothing. They were raised by Nintendo and Nickelodeon. The reality was that their parents weren’t present.
Instead of allowing resentment over their youth to fester, many Gen X’ers and Millennials are intent on shaping a brighter future, starting in their own home. All of my friends with kids have expressed the sentiment–they want their prodigy to have solid morals, practical life skills, and a healthy curious about the world. And the parents are very active in teaching, engaging, and encouraging their little ones. For me, that investment in children inspires hope for the future.
However, nowadays, the lives our grandparents led would be labeled “extremist” by many. I just learned of the term TradWife, which is in reference to a traditional housewife or homemaker. A perhaps small subset of women want to stay home and raise a family and another subset of men are looking for just that. It worked for our parents, grandparents, and preceding generations. If two individuals are seeking the same type of arrangement–one which prioritizes attentive child-rearing–it hardly seems worthy of discussion.
According to Wikipedia, however, the concept is controversial because it’s been associated with the alt-right, white nationalism, and the Republican party, and because it rejects feminism. After reading through articles on the New York Times, the Guardian, and other politically biased media outlets, I see the concern. The authors of these articles seem to equate the relationship to that of an arranged marriage or extreme domestic control. But that’s not accurate.
I know a dozen couples in which the wife (or husband) stays home. The reason in every single case is because they want to raise their own kids. It’s not able control; it’s about raising well-adjusted children and prioritizing family. There are surely exceptions, but I believe they are just that.
The couples I know with a stay-at-home parent have shared some of their reasons and approaches with me in the past. The spouse who stay at home handles most chores during the day, so the entire family can spend quality time together when the working spouse comes home in the evening. The spouse who works has the job of increasing income, whereas the spouse who stays home has the job of reducing expenses; more often than not, the stay-at-home spouse manages the household finances. They employ teamwork to achieve the goal of increased time together as a family.
My partner and I hope to start a family in the coming years. He’s disabled and working to establish a new career, but if that doesn’t pan out he’ll be the stay-at-home parent while I continue working. It’s a partnership–it’s not about power, control, or being the bread-winner. When children enter the picture, it’s 100% about providing all the resources they need to thrive in the world. For those drawn to tradition, the right decision for their family may be passing on daycare and choosing such a stay-at-home arrangement.
I was excited to see young people today prioritizing the young people of tomorrow. Our modern world is in shambles and I think the return to tradition is an opportunity to change the course of history for the better. We need to take care of and guide our children, and steer them away from the ever-pervasive evils of the world. We need to teach them the skills that our own parents may have been too busy working to pass on.
Half of the stay-at-home couples I referenced are not White. Just in my network, the stay-at-home parents are Indian, Chinese, Hispanic, Pakistani, Filipino, South Korean, and Black, in addition to White. This is not a white supremacy issue, and I’m getting a bit fed up with the media slapping that label on everything willy-nilly. Yes, there are extremists on the fringe minority, but love for one’s children does not make one a national threat.
The new counter culture is about the prioritization of family. Full stop. There are no boundaries of color, culture, religion, or political affiliation when it comes to choosing how to raise a family. And the latchkey kids just want something better for their own children.