Mindy Kaling on single parenting and why 'the biggest reward is seeing how happy my children are’

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

Mindy Kaling may be the hilarious brain behind shows like The Mindy Project, Never Have I Ever and, most recently, The Sex Lives of College Girls, but what brings the actress, writer and author some of the greatest “rewards” of her life is watching her children grow up happy. As a solo parent of Katherine, 4, and Spencer, 1, Kaling tells Yahoo Life that she’s in awe of her kids’ demeanor.

“The biggest reward is seeing how happy my children are,” Kaling explains. “Like, they're just so full of joy and so funny. There's nothing jaded or cynical about them... they just love life. For whatever reason, they have no fear in expressing themselves. You know, I was a really shy kind of repressed kid, [with] ‘be seen and not heard energy.’ And they're very heard.”

Kaling first surprised the world with the news that she was having a baby in 2017, and shared she was pregnant again in 2020. The Office alum, whose own beloved mother passed away in 2012 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, says she was motivated by “fear and panic” that parenthood wouldn’t happen for her.

Mindy Kaling on her two kids, the prospect of co-parenting and juggling work and motherhood during the pandemic. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Mindy Kaling on her two kids, the prospect of co-parenting and juggling work and motherhood during the pandemic. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

“I had some professional things that I'd been hoping for not come through or had been delayed. And I just thought like, ‘What am I doing? Like, I just gotta have a kid,’” Kaling says of her decision to have a baby on her own at 37. “I [didn’t] want to wake up and just never be able to, because more than writing and creating shows, my great dream in life was to become a mom, because of my relationship with my mom.”

Like so many working moms, home became the office during the coronavirus pandemic. While Kaling has a nanny and a father who is “really involved” in her kids’ lives, she’s able to make working from home work due to how connected the world is now. Kaling is currently working with AT&T Fiber — a partnership built around the fact that she needs reliable internet to work from home.

“I have, like, three different writers' rooms that I am doing,” says Kaling. “And then I’m Zooming with family from India, all this sort of stuff. I have to wear so many hats, so I just need something that's incredibly fast. … I just really need a fast, reliable connection. And that's why I felt like, ‘Oh my God, this is a lifesaver.’”

The prevalence of doing everything over Zoom came with some (very relatable) parenting challenges as well.

“My daughter was supposed to go to Zoom school … every day for two hours,” says Kaling. “And after 15 minutes she just was not having it. And of course, as an Asian parent, I was like, ‘Oh my God, can the other kids do it for two hours? Why can't she do it? Do I need to get her a tutor?’ I catastrophize that way. About three months into that, I was like, this is too exhausting. I just have to lower my standard.”

Rearranging her thought process is nothing new for Kaling, who has also embraced many of the changes that parenthood has created for her. She credits becoming a mom with helping her commit to a lifestyle change. She’s no longer staying up until 3 a.m. and waking up at 10 a.m. These days she's rising early so that she can care for her two little ones.

“​​Any doctor will tell you, that's probably the most healthy, efficient way to be,” says Kaling. “And when you are a parent, that's just the schedule your kids are on. So you are forced to do it.”

Now, she says, parenthood makes her “treasure the time that I see my adult friends.”

“I feel like I enjoy it so much more because of the scarcity,” she explains. “And as most busy working parents will tell you, it's made me cut out all the people that are just not important. … Like, I can't keep up with so many of those relationships anymore. It's just not going to happen.”

As for whether she sees herself having a romantic partner who would help her raise her children, Kaling says it’s not something she ever hopes for.

“I think of myself as my kids' parent, and if I have someone that comes into my life down the line, that would be great, but I don't think it's their responsibility. It's mine,” she says. “They're just, like, my blood; they're my responsibility. I'm not in a place now where I would necessarily want or need that from somebody else, to have someone else step in as a co-parent.”

—Video produced by Stacy Jackman.

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