Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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Is Etsy the answer for work-life balance?

Erika Harbert of Miko Design, via etsy.com

I’ve written before about how Etsy is so appealing to moms seeking the kind of flexible, home-based work not readily available in our economy. So I found it interesting to read Babble’s recent “Top 50 Etsy Parents” feature. While the list references “parents,” most of the people featured are women. Many of them talk about how Etsy allows them to live their home-centric, family-centric lifestyle, or to achieve a kind of work-life balance they didn’t feel was possible in the mainstream working world:

When Kim’s son Ethan started school, she realized her pre-baby career — event planning — wasn’t flexible enough for her new life as a mom.

- Julie [a former engineer] most appreciates that Etsy allows her the ultimate life-work balance.

- Like many moms on maternity leave, Erin felt her priorities shift after the birth of her first son— away from hour-long commutes and late workdays

“Being self-employed and working from home allows me to do the most for my kids,” Rebecca says.

- Like many moms on Etsy, Kimberly was searching for the elusive work-family balance — and found it. “As an Etsy parent I can attest that being able to mold my schedule around my little guy’s life is really a dream,” she says

Given that Etsy is only a viable money-maker for a lucky few, stories like this only remind one how little flexibility there is  in the mainstream job market. It’s cool that these people featured can make money on Etsy, but crafting – generally a low-earning pink-collar industry – is hardly the answer to most people’s work-life balance problems, and it’s a little weird and class-blind that it’s sold this way.

What bugs me, I guess, is the way Babble pushes this narrative of “isn’t it nice that I can earn a little money while arranging my schedule around the baby. It’s the perfect work-life balance!” I’m not trying to knock the Etsy sellers or Etsy itself, but for most people, work-life balance involves having a job with a good salary and benefits that also allows flexibility. The Babble narrative sort of suggests that women are just second-income earners who can easily mold their lives around childcare duties without too much worry about money (though, to be fair, they do point out where the Etsy seller in question is actually supporting her family on her income).

It’s a really appealing narrative, though, this idea that you could work at home and do something creative and fun AND make money, all while having total flexibility over your schedule. Who wouldn’t want that?

3 comments to Is Etsy the answer for work-life balance?

  • mary

    ‘The Babble narrative sort of suggests that women are just second-income earners who can easily mold their lives around childcare duties without too much worry about money’

    Yes, because they have partners who suffer thru the mind numbing daily grind of providing a livable salary and health benefits.

    As a full-time working mom, I guess my priorities are TOTALLY screwed up, as I am not a self-employed crafter.

  • 24fps

    Yes, working from home is great in some ways. In other ways, not so much.

    I’m not a crafter, I’m a filmmaker, but I ran my company out of my house while my kids were small. My hubby and I work together, although there were times we both took contracts seperately to make ends meet. It was good in that we both got to spend more time with our kids, but it became apparent that by about 2 years old the girls needed more social time and we needed more dedicated work time. I didn’t have a lot of time for playdates or coffee with other mums who were at home with their kids. The answer? Daycare – part time, because Grandma also pitched in.

    The other down side is that when you work in this mode, you never entirely stop working. Your productivity will suffer somewhat from the start and stop of having a fragmented schedule working around a small person’s needs and it’s always difficult to just end the day when your workplace is attached to your living space. And you don’t make as much money because of this.

    Personally, I think making money as a crafter has to be pretty difficult and it would only be the rare person making a living wage from it. Crafting and running your own business from home isn’t the be all and end all of balance – more like integration. I’m glad I did when my kids were small, but again, I used daycare and had family supports and had a partner who was flexible as well – remove a single one of those and it wouldn’t have worked at all.

  • [...] train and this clip just seems too perfect, especially in light of recent discussion about Etsy-as-solution-for-work-life-balance and the reality of crafty, home-based [...]