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?