Dolce & Gabbana’s attack on "chemical children" has opened debate on the changing face of parenting.
Samantha Mellon-Darling lives with her wife, Aleshia, and their son, Riley, 6. They've had a bit of a rocky road, getting together in 2008 and having Riley in 2009, before splitting for a few years, only to reunite and marry last year.
During the split, Mellon-Darling had a baby, Nadia, with another woman and the couple now share custody of the 3-year-old. Mellon-Darling also has a 7-year-old son who lives with his grandparents. She had that child with a male partner.
Confused? The Christchurch family is certainly unconventional - but they are also a symbol of the changing face of parenting in the 21st century. And they are making it work.
Mellon-Darling says the Kiwi concept of family has moved beyond the 1950s stereotype.
"New Zealand has so many different family ways now. I know single dads raising kids, grandparents, step-mums/dads, blended families, families made up of different races, aunts, uncles."
"These days all I see is people doing their best to raise their kids the best way they can.
"Blood-related or not, as long as the children are put first and are looked after well it is no different to a traditional Mum and Dad raising kids."
When fashion designer Domenico Dolce shared his take on children born from in-vitro fertilisation with Italian magazine Panorama in March this year, he called them "children of chemicals, synthetic children", saying surrogates for gay parents offered their "wombs for hire".
All children should be raised in traditional families, naturally conceived by mother and father, said Dolce.
His business partner, Stefano Gabbana, who was also once his partner in love, has previously shared similar sentiments.
"I am opposed to the idea of a child growing up with two gay parents," he said in 2006. "A child needs a mother and a father."
The famed fashion designers have so much in common with music legend Elton John: fame, wealth, techni-coloured fabulousness in a world of beige and boring. Vocally and unashamedly "out", they should be soul brothers - but when it comes to concepts of family, they might as well inhabit different universes.
For married-with-children Elton John, Dolce's rant was a step too far. "How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic'," he wrote on his Instagram page.
"And shame on you for wagging your judgmental little fingers at IVF - a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce & Gabbana ever again."
That prompted boycotts and protests at the offices of D&G - and proved a catalyst for a dissection of today's "appropriate" family unit.
Dolce watered down his provocative opinion a few months later, claiming it was a personal belief based on his traditional Sicilian upbringing and that everyone should have freedom to live how they chose.
It does reflect, however, the Catholic Church's current stance on IVF.
How dare you refer to my beautiful children as "synthetic". And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF - a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana
Dr John Kleinsman, director of the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre, says the Catholic belief is that technology to assist in conception undermines "the dignity that is owed to us as persons when it takes conception out of the personal and quintessentially human paradigm characterised by a self-giving unconditional love".
"It is not enough to simply generate a life - it is necessary to provide a loving context because ultimately only love gives life." And that means the "proper place" for children to be conceived is in a loving marriage between a mother and father.
The debate shines a light on the divide that exists between conventional concepts of family and the reality of life in the 21st century. The "traditional family" - mum, dad and 2.4 kids conceived "naturally" - is no longer the only option.
Today's families differ dramatically from the "white picket fence" ideal. The traditional family is still the most represented according to Statistics New Zealand (couples with children rose from 447,894 in 2006 to 469,290 in 2013) but alternatives are on the increase.
Single-parent families, for example, jumped from 193,635 to 201,804 and numbers of extended families living together has gone from 82,692 to 100,605 over the seven-year period.
It means a generation of children will be growing up with a new "normal" when it comes to the concept of family.
As lifestyles and relationships change, coupled with new and advancing fertility technologies, so, too does the make-up of the modern family.
Mellon-Darling hasn't met with prejudice over her family.
"We often get confusion when it's first mentioned, but never any hate."
This isn't the case for all same-sex parents.
Kristal O'Neill lives in West Auckland with her partner, Rebecca, and their two children under three (conceived using a donor).
She is a registered nurse and holds a masters degree. Her thesis was on the impact of parenthood on same-sex couples. She says gay parents often face far more scrutiny than heterosexual couples.
"Same-sex couples with children face criticism, judgements and homophobia that other parents do not have to contend with."
She says a "biological emphasis" affects the experience of parenthood. There are two parents, but only one carries the baby.
"People can't see past this so the 'other' parent is often disregarded or their role minimised."
She also contends that many people are uneducated or misinformed about what it is to be gay. "They can't appreciate that these people can and do make fantastic parents, and raise great kids."
Although the likes of Dolce and Gabbana extol the virtues of a family headed by "a mother and a father", research suggests that as long as a child has steady adults in its life, what type of family they're in makes little difference to their wellbeing.
Evidence distilled by a University of Cambridge professor from 35 years of international research revealed children brought up in "new family forms", such as same-sex families, and children born from IVF do as well as children from traditional families.
It also ascertained that a lack of mother or father figures in the home didn't adversely affect children, as long as they had stable and supportive parental role models.
Louise Keown, deputy director of the parenting research group at Auckland University, says even in families where parents have separated, children's wellbeing can be maintained. "It really comes down to how the parents handle the home situation. Ongoing tension obviously leads to difficult outcomes for children.
"But research shows that as long as children have a couple of people who can provide love and support, they are likely to be fine."
A baby girl born a month ago will grow up with four adults sharing her parenting in what could be the -poster family for bucking tradition.
Edward Cowley, better known by his drag artiste moniker Buckwheat, has become a father and he and his partner Peter are sharing parenting with two lesbian friends. Their baby girl was born on June 2.
He says friends, family and co-workers have been generally supportive of their unique parenting arrangement.
"On the whole, it has been a really good experience. Some of the people I work with didn't really get it, but I've also had some amazing messages of support from others who I really didn't expect it from."
The two sets of partners will share custody of the baby, who hasn't been officially named yet. "We thought she was going to be a boy so we're still working on a name," Cowley says.
The four parents are clear about the values they want to instil. "We want her to be brought up to be respectful, caring and loving. A person who makes a positive contribution and is active in the community."
Although the familial configuration is unconventional, Cowley feels that it has many benefits.
"All four of us have had to work hard in our lives, and we are committed to having time for our child. We are time-poor in our society - our child will always have a parent who can spend time with them."
Cowley says our society is becoming more inclusive and open-minded. "I see it in my family," he says. "I come from a very religious family and a few years ago they would have said a flat out 'no' if I'd suggested having a child in this way. But their attitude has really shifted and I think society's attitude is shifting too."
Even where children are conceived naturally, break-ups add to the changing face of the family unit.
Vikki George and her daughter, Lilly, 6, are thriving in their family of two.
An escapee from the Christchurch earthquakes (her jewellery business Roccabella was destroyed), she split from Lilly's dad two years ago. George has Lilly 90 per cent of the time in a Grey Lynn apartment.
"It's one bedroom so we sleep in the same bed," she says. "It's actually really nice."
George works as a store manager on Ponsonby Rd and is trying to relaunch Roccabella in Auckland, so having time for Lilly is a priority.
"I have Sundays and Mondays off, so I only get to spend one full day with Lilly," she says. "It's really hard because I miss out on watching her do things like playing after school sport. But the other Mums are so supportive, they make sure she gets a hug if she does well at something when I'm not there."
George didn't plan to be a single mum, but she's fine with it. "I'd rather be doing it myself than be in an unhappy relationship," she says. "And Lilly is such a delight; she's always cracking me up."
David Hornblow is a live engineering and music producer from Avondale who shares custody of his children Tom, 11, and Zac, 8, with his ex-partner. He has them "40 per cent of the time" and has had a solo dad role for almost five years.
"The early days of a breakup are a minefield and damage is everywhere. The emotional relationship and the parenting relationship with your ex should be kept as separate as possible.
"The feelings of anger and physical discomfort around, or from, your ex have to be dealt with away from the mechanics of child hand over. Children can read the situation just as expertly as the adults, they see and feel all the tension we do."
He feels the concept of family has undergone a paradigm shift, and he has no sense of being "an outsider".
"New Zealanders are very accepting of solo parents," he says. "I've had little to no feelings of prejudice directed at me. What constitutes 'a family' has been atomised."
Although Gail Simmons and her husband, Frank, are living within the "traditional" family unit, their path to parenthood was anything but. It took an arduous five rounds of IVF for Gail to become pregnant.
"Unless you're personally involved in the process I don't think you realise how detailed it is.
"It's an emotionally draining process, too, not to mention all the drugs and injections needed for preparing your body both before and after embryo implantation."
Simmons says strangers often approach her to ask about her twin 2-year-old boys. "A very common question from strangers when they see us with twins is, 'Are they natural or did you have IVF?'
"I'm taken aback every time I get asked this because it's such a personal thing. I don't think it has ever been meant in a rude way, though. And it's definitely a question that all parents of multiples encounter," she says.
Although the process of conceiving was challenging, she's absolutely delighted with the results.
"It's incredible. I'm so thankful that advances in medical science have enabled me to become a -mother. The five days two microscopic embryos spent in a petri dish has resulted in two gorgeous, happy, all-natural boys. I feel like the luckiest person alive."
She says Dolce's comments were "ignorant and stupid and that can be a dangerous combination, particularly when uttered by a famous person whose remarks will be repeated around the world".
"At the end of the day it's sperm meets egg, does it really matter where it happens? "
Kristal O'Neill's experience of parenting in the 21st century has also been very rewarding. She says there needs to be more of an emphasis on the shared journey all parents take, rather than the differences.
"There is no such thing as a traditional family any more. Instead of focusing on what separates us, we need to focus on the parallels and shared experiences. We all go through pregnancy, labour, birth and parenting ... all its joys, fears and triumphs."