The Stay-at-Home girlfriend trend has been all over my FYP page on Tiktok for months. I am fascinated by how popular and how singular it is. The videos are almost exclusively made by young, early to mid 20s, beautiful women depicting almost exclusively high-end, luxurious lifestyles. They’re often in a major city and these women do not work while their male partners do. I don’t know that every stay-at-home girlfriend is in a straight relationship, but I have yet to see a stay-at-home girlfriend who is dating a woman.
This lifestyle is often portrayed as reclaiming your femininity by opting out of the toxic hustle culture modern workplace and it’s portrayed as a way to treat yourself to the endlessly soft life of ease and luxury that you truly deserve.
Now as a millennial who came into adulthood during the era of the Girlboss, where the messaging was very much so get out there hustle, build your own company, exploit workers just like a man and make as much money as possible. I’m really fascinated by how we’ve kind of reversed course so hard to now the ideal being you should leave work, you shouldn’t have your own bank account, you shouldn’t have money in your own name. Let a man do all of that for you. I feel like the stay-at-home girlfriend has given me whiplash!
So, who is the stay-at-home girlfriend?
- They are young
- They are traditionally beautiful.
- And of course, they don’t work.
They often film their days and the lifestyle that they’re capturing is mostly about preparing low calorie food, attending a fitness class, going out on dates with their partner or their friend, traveling or lifestyle content within their beautiful and often spotless homes. Some of these creators talk about how they are living this lifestyle now because they’ve left corporate America or they’ve left the rat race that left them feeling burnt out or disillusioned with work in general.
But what they don’t address is that living this way is abandoning their independence at every level, not having access to money in your own name, not having your own financial accounts, not having a work history, not having work references. This is a very dangerous way to live in the United States. There are very few social safety nets in our country. And the ones that we do have are tied almost entirely to your work history and how much you have paid into the government in the form of taxes.
If you want to start collecting Social Security at 68, you have to pay into it now when you’re 23 or 25 or 32 or 42. The less you pay into it, or the shorter timeframe that you pay into it, the less you will collect in old age. Thanks to the wage gap women are already 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65. And older women aged 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level as compared to their male counterparts.
The stay-at-home girlfriend is not financially attainable for most people
While these stay-at-home girlfriends are portraying lives of luxury on single incomes earned by their male partner, that is far from the truth for most single income households today in the United States. 23.7% of single income families lived below the poverty line in 2019. And median single earners brought home between $47,446 in Mississippi and $75,797 in Hawaii. Those income numbers are a very far cry from being able to afford a life of luxury and making protein smoothies in the morning, then spending three hours at Pilates, then going shopping for a Hermes bag in the afternoon, which is the lifestyle that a lot of these women are portraying.
They’re also ignoring the obvious reality that they do, in fact, have a job. These women are content creators and influencers. Many of these women are selling the items that they display often in their homes via their affiliate links. They earn a commission off of every rug or Stanley Cup that they sell and I will be the first person to tell you that content creation takes a lot of time. It’s not digging ditches hard, but it is incredibly time-consuming between setting up the lighting, setting up the shot, the editing, the voice-over, making sure that your house is clean, etc., etc. There’s a lot of things that go into creating those really aesthetically pleasing, 15 second videos that we consume hyper-fast on TikTok.
Feminism is not the problem
Now as your favorite left leaning personal finance girlie, let me say that I have no problem with people who want to opt out of today’s work environment. I get it. Work in the United States sucks. And if that’s something you want to avoid, I think more power to you. But unfortunately, while these creators have correctly identified that work sucks, they have misidentified the culprit.
Working women were hardest hit by the pandemic with more than 1.8 million women being forced to leave work between February 2020 and January 2022. According to data from the National Women’s Law Center from February 2020 to January 2022, male workers regained all jobs they had lost due to the public health crisis.
However, 1.1 million women left the labor force during that span accounting for 63% of all jobs lost. The pandemic was absolutely a fire starter for labor movements in the United States. It gave rise to a lot of trends and movements that show how displeased most Americans are with how difficult it is to get and maintain a job in the United States while also trying to afford the cost of living in the United States. We’ve seen the rise of the anti-work movement, of quiet quitting and ultimately The Great Resignation. People are sick of how work doesn’t work in the United States.
It’s incredibly hard to be a woman in the U.S.
I want to point out it is hard to be a working woman in the United States. We have no federal paid maternity leave or paternity leave. We have no federally subsidized child care. We have very few workplace protections for any worker and women face financial repercussions in the workplace in the form of the wage gap, the motherhood penalty and the glass ceiling when it comes to getting promoted into C suite positions. But the stay-at-home girlfriends and even more extreme movements like the Trad wife movement have picked the wrong bad guy.
A lot of these videos are laying the blame for how difficult it is to be a working woman at the feet of feminism. And that’s just not the case. It’s not feminism’s fault that work sucks. It’s capitalism and the patriarchy. Feminism is in fact responsible for a lot of the independence that these women have today– everything from the right to vote, to the right to have custody over their children in the event of divorce, to the right to have your own bank account. Many women in their 20s right now grew up in a household dynamic where both parents worked outside of the home. But the mother was also responsible for all of the household labor.
So these girls would see their moms go work nine to five and after a full workday, come home and still have to do the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the after school pickups and make sure that the costumes got made for the school play. That’s basically two jobs that they watched their mothers do. And they took a look at that and said, it’s not for me. I understand that. It’s completely understandable why so many people are yearning for a soft life, but it’s not feminism’s fault that work is shitty, or that we have outlandish expectations for working women in this country. But these videos in this trend directly ignore the realities of being a kept and unmarried woman.
Stay-at-home girlfriends have no legal protection
If you’re a married woman and you stay-at-home, either as a stay-at-home wife or stay-at-home mother, you have legal protections because marriage is fundamentally a civil contract between you and your partner. In the event of a divorce, a stay-at-home wife could be entitled to alimony to division of marital assets and to child support to help support any children that the marriage produced. Stay-at-home girlfriends do not have access to the same protections. If they get broken up with or they break up with their partner, they have very little legal recourse.
Stepping away from work is one thing, but ceding financial control of your life to your partner is another altogether. It’s a bad decision without income without financial assets in your own name. Without work references or a work history, you are completely vulnerable. You are vulnerable to poverty, you are vulnerable to financial abuse and financial exploitation and you are giving up tools that you could use to make your own life more stable.
Now I feel like I’m coming down kind of hard on this. It’s not that I don’t think anyone should be a stay-at-home girlfriend or a stay-at-home boyfriend or a stay-at-home they-friend. If you want to do that, that’s fine. But please don’t give up access to money or access to money in your own name in order to live that way.
3 things you should do if you want to be a stay-at-home girlfriend
Please make sure that you are retaining some type of financial autonomy and here are three things that I would recommend anyone considering being a stay-at-home girlfriend do.
1. Get a written contract
First is to get a written contract in place that states what you are entitled to in the event of a breakup. This might legally be called a cohabitation agreement in your state. Not all states honor and recognize cohabitation agreements. So just get a contract, regardless of where you live. Some things I would consider putting in this agreement would be a payout of some sort in the event of a breakup that would allow you to move out of your partner’s home. I would put something in there around any joint purchases made during the length of the relationship that were intended for joint use, and make sure that there’s language around you having some sort of access to that ownership in the event of a breakup. I would also have language around partial or full ownership of gifts given to you in the event of a breakup.
2. Maintain financial accounts in your own name
Number two is to maintain financial accounts in your own name. You can have joint accounts, nothing wrong with that. But you should also have bank accounts in your own name that no one else has access to. I would have an emergency fund with a minimum of six months living expenses in it that you can access. If you break up and need to find a place to live on your own or you need to provide for transportation and start paying your own groceries again, you’re going to need your own bank account.
I would also have an IRA, which is a type of retirement investment account in your own name. Because in the event that you do start to earn money while you’re in this relationship, you can then invest that money into your own investment account for your own future and give yourself a little bit of help and financial stability.
3. Continue to invest in education & networking
And number three is to continue to invest in education and networking. Keeping an active social network and professional network is just fun. It’s nice to have friends that you can talk to about things, but it’s also incredibly important if you do decide to go back to work this is a network of people that can make introductions for you help you apply to things introduce you to courses or trainings that might help sharpen your skills and I think it’s really valuable to keep this network alive and well while you’re being a stay-at-home partner.
I wish all the stay-at-home girlfriends well and I also hope that all of you are keeping money in your own name. Honestly, it would be my worst nightmare to be a single woman with no financial assets and no work history to my name out in this country. It’s hard enough to survive in the United States with financial assets and with a work history.
So if you are considering or you are currently a stay-at-home partner, please take the tips that I have already given here. Put them into use and protect your financial future.
If you’re more of a visual learner, we’ve got all these tips on the video below. And let us know what you think of the stay-at-home girlfriend in the comments!