The concept of the “trad wife” or “trad girl” has been mocked in various ways. Sometimes this is done in good fun, and sometimes it’s done maliciously. In one respect, this could simply be a case of sour grapes, though there certainly isn’t any shortage of “trad” girls who make a mockery of themselves. I’ve seen a self-described tradcath (traditional Catholic) on Twitter with a patreon in her bio. Ah, yes, nothing more traditional than soliciting donations from strangers! And of course, we’ve all see some supposed trad discuss lewd sexual behavior and other such obscenities. But the point of this essay isn’t to dwell on such things. I want to explore what is, in my opinion, the necessary conditions for a traditional home, family, and of course, wife.
Firstly, let’s set the bar high on what traditional living is. It’s not simply being the bread winner as the man and the wife stays home wearing a dress while you’re away. Although this might seem traditional with your wife gussied up at home and having the house spotless for you when you get back, it’s actually a far cry from real traditional living. Let’s look at a group of people whom nobody would deny lived traditionally for time immemorial: the peasantry of Europe. Specifically peasants in the Roman Empire (though what I will say about them will generally be true for other peasants elsewhere and other times). The goal isn’t to become peasants but to get an idea of what can be considered the most traditional of living circumstances. From there, we can see what we can reasonably incorporate into our modern lives to become more “trad.”
To start, these peasants were firmly rooted where they were at. So rooted in fact, they likely didn’t have any means to leave at all. They depended on their land whole heartedly for survival which consisted of roughly a 5-8 acre farm. This farm would most often feed a multi-generational home that had an average of about 8 people living on it. The productivity of this farm and home depended very much on the health and age of the inhabitants (Are grandma and grandpa still limber? Are the kids too young to be of any help?). The type of farming and work performed was done on a seasonal basis that would change from region to region. 
Right off the bat we already of a different relationship to the lived environment. As Wendell Berry notes in The Unsettling of America, we must observe our environment and establish our relationship with it. Is the environment just a random backdrop that makes up our surroundings or is it something we are apart of and engage with? This is crucial because this roots us in a time and place. Unfortunately today many people live in conditions that prevent them from ever engaging with their environment beyond a superficial level. Perhaps it’s cold and they wear a jacket, or it’s a hot and they put on shorts, but that’s usually the extent of it. A featureless suburb or an apartment complex can exist literally anywhere and often has no defining features of where it’s at. These things also don’t demand any different type of approach to surviving in them. These things that exist everywhere can be thought of as places of nowhere. These places do not produce any sense of rootedness. A person living in such a place could just as well live in a dozen different cities, and truth be told, they often do. Nothing about their lived experiences would change if they moved. A suburb in Dallas, an apartment in Chicago, the job they hold will likely be the same, the commute will be similar, the consumption habits of chain restaurants, amazon, and big box store would likely be the same as well.
A true home rather than mass produced housing is important for traditional living. A home actually is somewhere. It reflects the area it’s in. It is unlikely to be abandoned at the first economic opportunity. A home is a long-term living arrangement and will certainly have a few acres around it. These acres are the environment that you will engage with. And truth be told, I don’t see any chance of traditional living without a little bit of land to call your own.
To continue our description of the Roman peasant home, it likely had little to no monetary wealth, but it did have a significant amount of social capital. Saving up money was largely pointless, and it sometimes brought on more trouble than it was worth. For one, money was easier to tax than agricultural products. If you didn’t have money, you didn’t have that easy revenue source for the government to tap into. Money was often used in times of food shortages. The problem with this though is that precisely when you need to buy food the most is precisely when food prices are at their highest. Years of savings could be wiped out with a combination of inflation and desperation. Also in the ancient world you always had a small risk of a raid or foreign army stealing your savings. Lastly, there really wasn’t a lot to buy that you couldn’t simply trade for or make yourself. The mobility of money isn’t that much of an advantage for a peasant that will never leave his small valley anyways.
More important to our peasant is social capital. Social capital had surprisingly the same utility as money with less of the downsides or risks. The way to accrue it was by banqueting neighbors during times of plenty and contributing to local festivals and celebrations. People tend to remember the contributions you made during times of celebration. More importantly than times of plenty are the times you helped a neighbor when times were bad. If your neighbor was struggling and you offered food, labor, or seed etc, this good deed could be remembered for decades. You can “cash in” on this good will when you yourself had a bad year and struggled to feed your own family. Your risk is mitigated in bad years by previous generosity.
The second benefit to the social capital system is that it can never be taxed, lost or stolen. The key to surviving as a peasant was often to get rid of excess wealth in this way. Excess crops were less often sold for money than simply given away for social capital. Ironically enough this presented a perennial problem for the ruling class. Peasants were often deemed unproductive and could hardly be spurred to produce excess crops to tax. The peasants goal was to produce just enough to live and a little extra. This had the added benefit of preventing the ruling classes from taking advantage of you. If you weren’t overly productive, had little extra capital/wealth to take, the ruling class rarely desired to tax their subjects to death. The less you had, the less could be taken.
So this next insight to the lives of a traditional peasant gives us two things to hone in on. Your relationship to your community and the value of thrift. The community aspect of the peasant was extremely important. “Community” today is often a word thrown around with little meaning. A community in its truest form is interdependent and self-reliant. Wendell remarked that, “The Amish are the last white community in the US.” This is absolutely true. A home in such a community, as well as a Roman peasant community, contributes overall to the communities survival and well being. If any random home were lost and destroyed, it would actually represent a real loss to the community in terms of survivability. Today no such relationship exists. If my own home were destroyed, there would be no loss of security among my neighbors. Likewise, if all my neighbors suddenly disappeared, my ability to survive would be radically unaffected. There is no dependency for survival.
Now, I don’t expect this to be changed in the near future, but the goal in this circumstance is to offer something of value to your neighbors. In order to embed yourself in your “community” see what you can do for them. It might not be life or death tier favors, but there are small things of value you can offer such as home-grown produce or your mechanical skills. This social capital can be useful if you happen to be worried about hard times ahead.
A traditional home may be poor in wealth (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be), but it should be rich in skills. Skills are what enables a home to be thrifty and ultimately productive. The skills can be mechanical, animal husbandry, gardening, sewing, masonry, canning, cooking, butchering, etc. The things you can do yourself enable you to have less reliance on “experts” to do them for you and money to pay for the experts. Thrift is an art that frees you from the economy at large and allows you to more carefully attend to matters at home. Repairing clothes or furniture can easily be turned into producing clothes or furniture to sell. Though I must add, thrift shouldn’t be used to justify working from home through an MLM scheme. This requires little skill and often drives women to use their children as props in facebook videos to sell makeup or leggings. It’s disgusting. The art of thrift should be less of you shilling products for a company and more you producing something in your own home with your own hands.
I believe a comparison between the modern house and an ancient home can help illustrate what’s wrong with the former. The Roman peasant’s home was not a purely consumptive thing. In fact, it was nearly self-sufficient and often produced in excess of its consumption. A modern house is quite the opposite. Energy, food, water, fertilizer, and products go in, and only waste comes out. It’s an extremely unbalanced equation. Modern houses produce nothing. They are mostly energy sinks.
The modern house can be thought of as a mechanized living facility. Little skill or technique are required to maintain one. It’s swept and vacuumed like an office building. The jobs of cleaning, cooking, heating, and cooling are all mechanized. Increasingly even food preparation isn’t even done at the house with frozen dinners and pre-processed foods being the go-to for most families. Often only the push of a button is required to perform a task. This simplification and dumbing down of the home is the wedge that feminism has exploited. Rather than a place for a woman to exercise knowledge and skill in making clothes, food, caring for land, animals, children and the elderly, it has instead become a small resource intensive factory that requires unskilled labor to manage.
In light of this, a house wife in the ‘60’s, gussied up and wearing a beautiful dress awaiting for husband to come home was never going to last. She was nothing more than an overdressed factory worker with little to do. Boredom consumed the modern housewife and they were sold an ever so slightly less boring alternative as a debt saddled corporate wage slaves as an alternative. What skills could she have or cultivate? Food and clothes are shopped for rather than produced. There were no animals to care for. The children were at school being taught by someone else. Her husband was gone and only the television kept her occupied. When the role as homemaker had been reduced to such a degree, is it any wonder how feminists got her ear?
The ancient peasants, and many other peoples in less modern economies had an enormous advantage to living more traditionally. That advantage was namely living where one worked. To be a short walk from your crops, animals, or blacksmiths tools facilitates a radically different way of thinking than our own. Even a shop keeper living above his shop can give care and attention to his work in a way many people find inconceivable. If your work life and home life are intermingled, it facilitates conscientiousness to your actions. You don’t debase your work because that debases your home and vice versa.
This too is a hard thing to achieve in the modern world, but I must insist you must find some type of meaningful work at home that isn’t simply an idle hobby. Ideally it should benefit the home in some way or your neighbors. Woodworking, gardening, or what have you. I would also suggest something like chickens. They’re relatively easy animals to keep, kids love them, they provide meat and eggs, and it makes your home in a small way more self-reliant. The responsibility of keeping and caring for animals is also rewarding in it of itself.
Ultimately a traditional home is an interdependent partnership that utilizes the home, land, and neighbors to its benefit. Your wife should have skills that compliment you own. Tasks are less “masculine” or “feminine” rather than simply part of a larger goal that can be achieved with teamwork. Your skills will largely cluster around your innate abilities, but there should be no reason your wife can’t butcher a chicken or you can’t figure out how pressure canning works. Traditional living requires a different view of the home altogether. It’s more than figuring out who does the dishes or takes out the trash. Planning and caring for a garden, one you plan to eat from, is more important and requires more cooperation than any small chore. The traditional wife should be cooperative, and the traditional husband should have a clear vision of how to live—at least in a small way—from the land and each other’s skills. You will likely not find a “trad” girl. At best you will find a girl who likes the aesthetic of sun dresses and cooking, but realistically you will have to guide a woman to real traditional living.
It should be apparent that living traditionally is no easy task. It’s not a matter of a woman wearing a dress and doing a photo shoot in a wheat field, and it’s not simply a man being the bread winner. It’s a different approach to living altogether that will likely be more difficult and require more work than living a conventional or modern lifestyle. But it’s worth it. You should not shy away from this work. You should embrace meaningful work insofar as it has tangible benefits to you and your family. The tasks that may seem tedious in theory like feeding animals every day or weeding a garden are anything but. They’re a time to think, reflect, and take joy in something that isn’t banal or abstract. The energy you save from not doing something difficult isn’t energy that can be stored to be used later, it’s simply lost. Embrace meaningful work and you can take a small step to living more traditionally.
The growth of the exploiters’ revolution on this continent has been accompanied by the growth of the idea that work is beneath human dignity, particularly any form of hand work. We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is only fit to escape from. We have debased the products of work and have been, in turn, debased by them. Out of this contempt for work arose the idea of a nigger: at first some person, and later some thing, to be used to relieve us of the burden of work. If we began by making niggers of people, we have ended by making a nigger of the world. We have taken the irreplaceable energies and materials of the world and turned them into jimcrack “labor-saving devices.” We have made of the rivers and oceans and winds niggers to carry away our refuse, which we think we are too good to dispose of decently ourselves. And in doing this to the world that is our common heritage and bond, we have returned to making niggers of people: we have become each other’s niggers.The Unsettling of America (p.14)