Why Melinda Gates Made Bill Drive Their Kids to School

Bill and Melinda Gates are definitely a power couple in business and in marriage. After meeting at Microsoft and then creating the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the couple knows how to share responsibility and play to each other’s strengths.

Melinda is a big believer in dividing up tasks, including on the home front. She recently spoke about how she and Bill split up their work load not just at the office but also with their family.

Melinda Gates At 2016 The Dreamforce Conference
Melinda Gates | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Stay-at-home mom

Melinda recently published her book “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World,” which shares stories of inspiring women she’s met in areas such as Africa and the Philippines. She also writes about her own personal experiences and how she’s evolved as a wife, mother, and feminist.

In her book, she discusses her decision to leave her job so she could be at home full-time with her three children. “In society there are so many issues that women face and we don’t even realize what we’re up against,” she said, according to NPR. “So I chose to write my story so that hopefully people and women and men could relate to me and understand that yes, these issues exist in every single marriage.”

The former Microsoft exec shares that she knew she eventually wanted to return to the workforce, so there would need to be some changes on the home front. “I wanted to have both a family and I knew I wanted to go back to work. And so [Bill and I] had some negotiation to do. We said, ‘OK who’s going to do what in our home? And how were we going to split up those roles?'” Gates said.

Bill at the wheel

When Melinda and Bill began divvying up tasks, she asked him to take on dropping the kids off at school. In her book, she reveals that a few weeks after Bill took over that responsibility, she began to notice more men were doing drop-offs. She found out that once moms saw Bill at the wheel in the school car line, they enlisted their husbands to do the same.

“The reason I wrote that specific story [is that it’s] an example of this unpaid labor that women do all over the world. In the U.S., women do 90 minutes more of unpaid labor at home than their husbands do. That’s things like doing the dishes, carpooling, doing the laundry,” Melinda said, as reported by NPR.

She saw this is a prime opportunity for change. “Unless we look at that and redistribute it, we’re not going to let women do some of the more productive things they want to do,” Gates explained.

Dividing responsibilities

The mom of three expands on other household chores she and Bill started to split up, though it wasn’t a complete success at first. “We didn’t quite have it right at first and I ended up frustrated. What parent has not ended up frustrated about their level of household duties or tasks?” Melinda said, according to USA Today.

She goes on to share that when it comes to tasks related to family, the mother is often the one with the lion’s share of responsibilities. “So often we assume – both the women and the men in the marriage – that stuff falls to the mom,” Melinda said. “I was trying to show how I had to look at these issues and I had to name my truth to my husband for us to be able to change… I think people have a certain view of Bill, because he was a high-charging CEO running Microsoft. I think people must think, ‘Oh well, Melinda must not really have equality with Bill.’ Actually, I have total equality with Bill. But it took awhile for us to get there.”

Melinda emphasizes that when a couple works together to take care of family needs, the family unit becomes closer and stronger. “You build intimacy in a family. A dad participating more when the child is young, he actually enjoys it,” she said. “Where the woman may have done all of that work and feel overburdened, if a man participates early – and this is why I’m so big on paid family medical leave, not paid maternity leave – we know from good research, he participates much more over the life of the child. And men who participate early also talk about their satisfaction and fulfillment of being a great dad.”

Melinda’s book “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” is on sale now!