Love, designed

Bonding – Parenthood

12 September 2023
From the exhibition

We’ve been conditioned with the idea that having a child together is the purest form of bonding. For centuries, though, being a mum or dad was not a choice at all, simply how things were ‘supposed to be’. The way parenthood itself is viewed has also changed over the years.

Freedom of choice
The late-1950s saw the development of the birth-control pill, one of the 20th century’s most important inventions. It enabled women to postpone motherhood – so they could study or work for longer – and to minimize their chance of an unwanted pregnancy: hello sex for fun! The little round pill gave women control over their wombs and marked the beginning of the sexual revolution. Despite criticism from some quarters, the pill has become one of the most widely used contraceptives.

It takes a village
Parenting takes many forms. Newborn babies of the Aka people in Central Africa are not only suckled by their mother but their father too. There are communities where all of the women take care of a child together, while in others, care is mainly provided by grandma and grandad. The traditional, heteronormative form of parenting is still the most common in the West, including the unequal male-female relationship. Almost half of women experience pregnancy discrimination at work. And women are still more likely than men to switch to part-time employment after the birth of a child.

Shared parenthood is common among partners in the LGBTQI+ community. But it is far from straightforward. Having a child remains complicated and expensive in the Netherlands for couples with male genitalia: adoption is currently only possible from six countries and is an extremely long process. It is also hard to find a donor egg and/or a surrogate mother.

Status symbol
Contemporary parenthood has become much more of a status symbol than it once was, from baby showers to gender reveal parties, and cashmere baby slings to hypermodern baby bouncers. All this means a nice pay-day for marketeers: brand-new parents are easy prey – only the best is good enough for their new arrival.