What Lockdown Has Meant for Femininity | Jennifer Mills

For those less inclined towards traditional femininity, lockdown has proved to be challenging for gender identity and self-realisation. But for those of us who aspire for a domestic, family-orientated role, it has given us a chance to pursue these goals, free from external pressure or distraction.

Even in the 21st Century – a so-called age of progression and tolerance – the role of the ‘trad-wife’ is often written off as a synonym for ‘unemployed middle-class women’, but anyone who takes this role seriously knows it’s one of extreme discipline and autonomy and requires years of practise to fulfil consistently. A young ‘trad-wife’ who claims she has mastered the role without fault is probably lying – like any ‘real’ career, it requires improvement and experience. Especially in the old normal, it was easy to forget to practise and aspire to be more feminine because life just got in the way.

In lockdown, however, society has basically stopped and none of us have any idea what we can do with our time. Whereas this is a largely gloomy reality, it has given me a chance to reflect on and carry out my role as a traditional woman. Away from the stress of university and social life, I have been occupied by the stress of what it means to be a homemaker.

The pressure I feel now is far more fulfilling and rewarding than chasing the ideals and aspirations society deems more noble. My day-to-day life looks drastically different, and I am grateful for the changes. I’m usually an extremely self-critical person, but lockdown has given me a chance to do something about it and gradually work towards real transformation to hopefully make me a better host, girlfriend and – one day – wife and mother.

I am trying to get into the habit of baking most days, keeping my home in reasonable order, and pursuing a more consistent, traditional aesthetic before lockdown (hopefully) ends and society can start to rebuild. There have been many times in life when I have wished time would pause so I could be better prepared and less overwhelmed. Well, this is the best chance I have got to do just that.

Strangely enough, this goes beyond the few traditionally conservative women and extends to female-kind in general. Home improvements and baking are immensely popular lockdown hobbies. For example, with the banana bread craze, psychotherapist Katerina Georgiou told Grazia that it helped people feel in control and therefore gave them a sense of comfort in such uncertain times. Hasn’t this always been the homemaker’s source of satisfaction? Personally, making my home a place where my loved ones feel safe and happy gives me a great sense of purpose and something I can change and ‘control’. Is it finally happening? Are people becoming aware that there is an empowered, autonomous reason behind women choosing to stay at home?

Many women are experiencing increased loneliness due to lockdown, which is more than understandable. Especially during this time, I pity women who have unsatisfactory home lives or do not find enjoyment in domestic pursuits. The Guardian reports that women are more likely than men to have put their careers on hold. Whereas this has proven difficult for women who work, I cannot help but hope for a slight return of single-income families. Just as 50 years ago, someone needed to prioritise children and looking after the home, especially back when schools were closed, and parents were expected to attend to their children’s educational needs. For the childless of us, housework has naturally increased due to more mess being made in the home than outside. With the lack of wider support circles, I have also found a higher requirement for emotional support.

Whilst many women lament the lack of choice they have at the moment, the current circumstances have given young traditional women the chance to prepare for a life bound to the home. Modern women are experiencing an increase in mental health problems, but I feel healthier than ever, away from all the overwhelming pressures and distractions of the world and able to focus on the things that matter to me.

I want this to end – lockdown, masks and online university are fundamentally encroaching on my enjoyment and freedom – and end soon, but I must find the blessing within it. Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth and this is my way of preparing myself better for the future. I hope that all women (and men) can take this time, if they can, to do the same.

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