Choosing to be a single mom wasn’t a scary prospect for Mindy Kaling. But entering parenthood without her own mother’s support was terrifying, she said.
In an essay from her new book “Nothing Like I Imagined (Except for Sometimes),” the writer and actress reflects on the period when she was pregnant with her first child, her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Kit (short for Katherine). At a friend’s suggestion, she hired a baby nurse, something she said felt weird given her upbringing, where her grandmother took care of her while her parents were at work.
“I think this is common for a lot of Indian-American kids of my generation,” she said. “I didn’t grow up with a nanny, and I can count the times when I had a babysitter on one hand. This may be an Indian thing, but it wasn’t really normal to have non-blood relatives in our house for social reasons, and certainly not for childcare.”
When Kit was born in December 2017, Kaling said it was much harder than she expected, for all the normal reasons new parenthood can be hard — but also because she was missing her late mom, Swati, who died in 2012. Her baby nurse, Rose, was an Indian woman in her 50s, whose black hair and choice of perfume reminded her of her mom. Kaling’s longing for her mother was “viscerally, painfully.” That loss felt like a much bigger and more significant lack than not having a partner, she said.
“When I was pregnant, I had enough time to visualize taking care of my daughter without a husband. That was easy. Most of my friends’ husbands don’t even change diapers,” she wrote in the essay “Help Is on the Way.”
“I learned quickly that my dream to nurse my daughter until she was three years old, like a smug Northern California hippie mom, was not going to come true.”
“But not having a mom around to support me was torture. It felt especially cosmically mean that my mother had been an obstetrician and gynecologist and I’d had a tough delivery.”
Rose helped Kaling with breastfeeding, which she found really hard. “I just didn’t make a ton of milk,” she wrote. “I learned quickly that my dream to nurse my daughter until she was three years old, like a smug Northern California hippie mom, was not going to come true.” Supplementing her breast milk with formula made Kaling feel like a “failure” at first, but the writer, director and actress’s father and Rose both helped her understand that it didn’t reflect on her — it was just what it made sense to do.
Having a baby nurse also meant there was an adult around whom she could talk to, which made a big difference. She wrote: “It was maddening to be home all day with no one except an infant who was mostly sleeping, and whose eyes can only discern me as a blob.”
Saying goodbye to Rose when the job ended was tough, Kaling said: “She was my mom when I needed a mom.”
In September, Kaling gave birth to a second child, a boy named Spencer. She had hidden her pregnancy, so the news was something of a surprise when she casually announced that she had a new baby, last week. No word yet on whether Rose helped the newly minted mom-of-two out again this time.