Marriage with kids is co-parenting and ironically, divorce with kids is co-parenting: same decisions, same values, same uneven emotional investment. Going through a divorce just to co-parent from different homes wastes so much time and energy that some people argue courts should not intervene in post-divorce parenting decisions, which would legally call a spade a spade and make parenting while divorced the same as parenting while married.
In a divorce with kids, timing is everything
When asked why the Gates chose now to divorce, an unidentified friend of the family said, “They limped through until their kids were out of school like a lot of people.”
Most people realize that the kid’s needs must come before the parent’s needs. This is why celebrities put out press releases that say something like, “We are doing what’s best for the kids.” Jeff Bezos also made sure to mention he’s concerned about the children’s best interests. But obviously, divorce is not an expression of the kids’ best interests. Unless one parent is so terrible that they will be losing custody, staying together until the kids are grown is what’s best for the kids.
Selfish parenting is the saddest part of divorce
Then one must ask, what could possibly make Jeff Bezos decide he needs to have a new wife before his kids are grown up? He can do whatever he wants for work to keep himself interested. Money can’t buy a good marriage, but it can buy space for co-parenting, and Jeff could buy more of that than anyone.
Developmentally, this is the time for Jeff to allow the kids to self-actualize, but if he breaks up the family, then the kids have to focus on dealing with their pain and disappointment. So (giving the benefit of the doubt) Jeff asked himself: Can I wait to fully explore my own possibilities until I am finished raising my kids? And he decided, no he cannot wait. The better question would have been who is better equipped to deal with disappointment, parents or kids?
The kids are the litmus test for who’s right
Melinda, on the other hand, has wanted to leave for a while, but she stayed in the marriage for the kids. This is what it looks like to put the kids first. It’s easier with a lot of money: she can live in one-half of their 66,000 square foot house.
For Bill’s part, even in 2020 he seemed to adore Melinda – he can quantify it. But during the last decade, he has publicly humiliated Melinda with tone-deaf behavior like refusing to let her write part of the annual letter for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which they both run. He brought her to dinner at Jeffrey Epstein’s house which made her furious at the time, and still haunted years later. Then Bill doubled down and he misled the press — and possibly Melinda — about the extent of his relationship with Epstein.
Whatever Bill has done, it is so offensive everyone in the family is upset with him. The family knew the divorce was coming and while the lawyers hammered out an agreement the three Gates kids and their significant others went on a vacation with Melinda. Bill was not invited.
What problem does divorce solve?
The problems divorce solves for Jeff Bezos are clear: He needed more attention than he was getting in his family of four children. He needed more fun than he was having with his wife who was raising his four children. When divorce is very sad, because the kids are so young, and a parent is so reckless, there is nothing to be learned about personal development except: fucking do it.
When divorce is a long time coming because a person has the maturity to put the kids’ needs first, and the grace to keep the family steady til the kids move out, it’s interesting to ask what does someone with such deep self-knowledge gain from divorce? With Melinda the question is even more intersting because she has all the freedom she needs.
She said she’s not distancing herself from the Gates Foundation, and its structure will not change. Perhaps this is because the foundation is practically the largest donor to the World Health Organization and for better or worse now is not the time for a world health funding bloodbath. Also, Melinda and Bill will continue working together because they have their collective eye on a Nobel Prize for their Foundation work.
There’s probably not a third person involved. I mean, there is, but Bill’s ex-girlfriend Ann Winblad has been involved from the start. Bill has been meeting her at her beach house for decades, with Melinda’s blessing. So if their marriage can have space for that, it’s unlikely they’d need to get divorced for a third party.
It’s hard to imagine Melinda cannot express herself fully in the marriage — she has unfettered access to billions of dollars and international credentials to make her mark without a divorce; she didn’t even drop the name Gates after her divorce.
So the divorce must be very personal. My guess is that Bill has lost his sense of what’s right. Vox has a great series where they ask what do we do now that would be unthinkable in 50 years. One of the answers is that being obsessed with rational thinking will be unthinkable in 50 years. In 50 years we will require people to balance rational thinking with emotional thinking. We will eventually be finished exalting the person who is all science and no heart.
I guess that makes Melinda a futurist. Because she’s finished right now.