Natalie Kon-yu was nine weeks pregnant when the trembling began. Two weeks later she checked herself into a mental health unit. Rather than a woman with a health concern, the GPs, nurses and psychiatrists saw Natalie as a vessel carrying precious cargo. The loss of agency carried on through her pregnancy, childbirth and early years as a mother. Natalie discovered that she was far from alone. In fact, her experience typifies the inequalities that weigh heavily on child-bearing women, as well as the devaluation of what is still perceived as women’s work.
Drawing on personal narratives, history, social research and interviews with a range of Australian and international experts, The Cost of Labour recognises the difficulties and hurdles parents encounter in Australia today. With bracing clarity and punch, Natalie Kon-yu tackles the institutions, expectations and ideologies that keep us all hostage to a dynamic unfit for contemporary society.
We are, she articulates, at a time of momentous cultural change when women are more invested than ever in working outside the home yet are still, above all else, expected by society to be the primary carers. The pressure is building and the cost on families is stacking up. Something has to give.
This is a book that will make you feel. Maybe tears, maybe understanding, maybe rage. But above all else, empathy and respect for women. An important read.
Natalie Kon-yu is a writer, academic and editor who has been published nationally and internationally. Her other work includes co-commissioning editor of #Me Too:Stories from the Australian Movement, Mothers and Others, and Just Between Us.
Paperback, 320 pages.
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