- You may have heard of a stay-at-home wife, but a new trend on social media is the title of stay-at-home girlfriend.
- Women have been giving followers a glimpse into their lives as stay-at-home girlfriends, which include spa days, lunch dates, workouts and shopping trips.
- South African influencer Zoe, who goes by @trullyzoe online, has amassed over 28 000 followers on TikTok, sharing her life as a stay-at-home girlfriend.
- While some praise her lifestyle, Zoe tells us certain comments negatively impact her mental health.
You may have heard the term stay-at-home wife before, but are you familiar with stay-at-home girlfriends?
I came across this trend while scrolling through social media one day. "Welcome to a day in the life of a stay-at-home girlfriend," one TikTok user introduced herself before showing off a flashy lifestyle which included morning smoothies, coffee on the beach, and day trips to the gym.
Of course, I immediately fled to the post's comments section in search of other social media users who were confused and opinionated about what they had just witnessed.
I followed that up with a Google search, and it turns out stay-at-home girlfriends have been a thing for a little while now.
"I've always just kind of been this type of person who likes not to work that much. Can I say that?" Zoe, who goes by @trullyzoe online, laughs as we talk via Zoom.
She's bubbly, fun to chat with and excited to answer any questions I set before her.
Zoe has amassed over 28 000 TikTok followers by simply sharing her life as a stay-at-home girlfriend.
She tells me she was inspired when she saw an international social media personality sharing her journey. With a bit of encouragement from a friend, she decided to hop online and give people a glimpse into her life too.
The whole stay-at-home girlfriend thing is still pretty new to her, though. Zoe and her partner have been together for two years but have only had this arrangement for about 10 months.
"When I heard the term (stay-at-home girlfriend), I thought, 'Oh my God, I finally have a word for me'. Cause I'm not necessarily married, and I'm not like working a full-time job; my partner pays for all the bills, pays for everything I do, so I was like, 'Oh, this makes sense'."
Just like with the international influencer who inspired her, I scrolled through Zoe's comments section too. And while many people came down hard on the American woman's profile, comments on Zoe's posts seemed generally positive. It hasn't always been this way, though, she admits.
"In the beginning of like my vlogging journey, it was really rough. It was my first time being cyberbullied -- people in my DMs bullying me. I still feel like it's quite polarising, though a lot of people that watch my vlogs actually know my content, here and there, there's like quite a bit of negative comments."
Zoe says that comments are especially harsh when her content is taken from TikTok and shared on platforms like Twitter. "A lot of those haters will come to my Twitter and just completely attack me. So it was really terrible in the beginning. I had to like see my therapist and really talk about this. Cause it's really a psychological attack, it feels like."
The social media star says the tension with followers has since eased up.
"Definitely intense in the beginning, but now I feel like people are kind of getting used to it. It's sort of like eating prawns for the first time, I guess," she jokes, saying that over time people have become accustomed to her and now enjoy her vlogs.
For the ones who still struggle to understand her lifestyle, Zoe says they think of her as a "sponge."
"Some people call me a sponge -- like I'm sponging off my boyfriend.
"Some people get terrified for me, like, 'But you're not married; what if he leaves?' So I see a lot of that; I see people being triggered because they're scared for me, or they just find it completely ridiculous and just insane."
The personal attacks made her realise that "people really find their self-identity in their jobs and what they produce in the world", she says.
"Like, okay, so you can't just be a human being, and that's it? You always have to have 500 jobs, and two side hustles that you do on the weekend. Then we'll respect you; you know what I mean? But the minute I'm someone who does the chores in the house and does all the cooking, it's like, no, throw her out the window."
As for the women who have supported her, Zoe says they see her as an inspiration. "I didn't even know that this type of life was possible for me. I always thought it was a wife thing, or it would just never happen, so it's really nice to see women kind of saying, 'Oh, so this is an option for me'.
"And that was my main motivator to actually create this kind of content -- to show women that there are options. You can be a stay-at-home girlfriend and still have your side income, but he pays for everything."
And if you think this way of living is a little archaic, setting women back a couple of decades, Zoe assures me that she has not lost any power in her relationship.
"I think I've definitely been accused by some women who identify as feminists of being regressive and pushing us back 90 years because of this lifestyle. Everybody just has to do what works for them, and I don't see that as a loss of power, cause like I mentioned, grey areas; I still have my side hustle. I will always have some type of income besides my partner's coming in, and I get to save that; I get to do whatever I want with that."
She adds that while many see her as "this little lamb" who her partner is controlling, she has retained her identity in the household.
"Everybody has their roles. So I have power in the house. I rule this domain... and then he has his power when it comes to how we manage our finances. And I have an input with that. Not him bulldozing me because I still am a partner in the business, if I can put it that way."
Zoe, who has always wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mom someday, says she organically fell into her role as a stay-at-home girlfriend when her partner, who travels a lot for work, asked that she spend more time by his side even while he was on the road.
The agreement has created more harmony in their relationship, she says, using the analogy of a smooth-running business.
"There's a huge level of harmony that I'd love people to know and experience," she says, adding that everyone knows their roles and they try as much as possible to stick to it.
"We stay in our lanes, and that has created so much harmony.
"If you have dreams of being a stay-at-home girlfriend, Zoe says it's important to be open and honest with the person you're dating.
"Just be honest with yourself and other people. As much as other people may frown over my life, this is exactly the life that I wanted. I don't think a lot of people can say I got exactly what I wanted. And the only way to do this is to play the game to win; play life to win."