Months after one of Elon Musk’s teenage children made the legal decision to disown him, the family of the world’s richest man took to Twitter on Father’s Day last week to reassure the world that he is “a really great dad.”
The message was posted by Elon’s younger sister, filmmaker Tosca Musk, 47, who sealed it with two red heart emojis. It was retweeted by their mother, 74-year-old model Maye Musk, in response to Elon’s own Father’s Day tweet: “I love all my kids so much.”
Maye Musk also linked to an Instagram photo of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and his younger brother Kimbal, 49 — both of them in black tie and surrounded by their smiling broods.
But a day later, Justine Musk, Elon’s first wife and mother of five of his seven living children, seemed to weigh in with a different message: praising her child, 18-year-old Xavier Alexander Musk for the decision to transition to a woman and legally dump Elon.
In papers filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in April, Xavier petitioned for a name change to Vivian Jenna Wilson, incorporating her mother’s maiden name and ditching her dad’s last name. In a brief explanation in the legal document, Vivian noted her reason for the name change and request for a new birth certificate: “Gender identity and the fact that I no longer live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”
Elon, whose net worth is $214 billion, has some very pronounced views on transgender issues and child-rearing. “Pronouns suck,” he tweeted in 2020. After a great deal of criticism, he later tweeted, “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an aesthetic nightmare.”
For the most part Elon, 50, has admitted that he is not a hands-on father, although he has clearly thought a great deal about his children’s education and future development, according to reports. He told the New York Times in 2020 that he doesn’t play a key role in his children’s lives when they are young.
“Well, babies are just eating and pooping machines, you know?” said Elon, two months after the birth of X, his son with the Canadian musician known as Grimes. The child, who was born in 2020 and whose full name is X Æ A-Xii, has been seen on Elon’s lap during Zoom calls with his staff.
“Right now there’s not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me right now,” he has said. “When the kid gets older, there will be more of a role for me … If I have a trip to China, for example, I’ll bring the kids with me and we’ll go see the Great Wall or we took the bullet train from Beijing to Xian and saw the Terracotta warriors [from the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor of China Qin Shihuang].”
Elon and Grimes had a second child, a girl named Exa Dark Sideræl, in December 2021, two months after they announced their breakup.
His second wife, British actor Talulah Riley, has said Elon tried to spend as much time as he could with his children when they were a couple, explaining he typically spent four days a week with his children from his first marriage. (Elon and Justine also had a son, Nevada, in 2002, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as a baby.)
“He tries to come home early for family dinners with me and the kids and maybe play some computer games with the boys,” she said. Elon began dating Riley after he separated from Justine in 2008. He married Riley in 2010; they divorced in 2012, remarried in 2013 and divorced again three years later. The couple had no kids.
Most of Elon’s children were educated at Ad Astra, the school that he founded after he began a homeschooling program for his oldest ones. The innovative school, which opened up to the children of SpaceX employees in 2014, emphasizes math, science, engineering and ethics, allowing students to opt out of subjects they don’t like, according to the Daily Beast. The school also replaced sports, language and music programs with discussions about corporations and artificial intelligence.
But it’s Elon’s obsession with his own romantic life that seemed to grip him while his eldest children were growing up.
In 2017, after he broke up with actress Amber Heard, he told Rolling Stone: “I’ve been in severe emotional pain for the last few weeks. Is there anybody you think I should date? It’s so hard for me to even meet people. I’m looking for a long-term relationship. I’m not looking for a one-night stand. I’m looking for a serious companion or soulmate, that kind of thing. If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long-term companion, I cannot be happy.”
But he has been known to be domineering in relationships. In a 2010 essay for Marie Claire after their divorce, Justine wrote: “As we danced at our wedding reception, Elon told me, ‘I am the alpha in this relationship.’ He had grown up in the male-dominated culture of South Africa, and the will to compete and dominate that made him so successful in business did not magically shut off when he came home.”
According to Justine, “he was obsessed with his work … When he was home, his mind was elsewhere.” At the time, she admitted that she was “estranged” from her ex-husband, and that they dealt with the children through an assistant.
“When we argued — over the house or the kids’ sleeping schedule — my faults and flaws came under the microscope,” wrote Justine, who met Elon when they were both students at Queens University in Canada. “I felt insignificant in his eyes, and I began thinking about what our dynamic would have on our five young sons.”
Vivian offered her own answer when she told her mother: “I had a weird childhood … I can’t believe I’m as normal-seeming as I am.” Those statements, attributed Vivian, were tweeted by Justine the Monday after Father’s Day, with Justine saying, “I’m very proud of you.”
Elon’s reply? “I’m proud of myself.”