You have to hand it to Mindy Kaling. While the rest of the world cancelled their plans and headed indoors at the start of COVID-19 lockdowns, at least one part of the Never Have I Ever creator’s life was going exactly to plan: the arrival of her second child, son Spencer. Kaling didn’t want to share her pregnancy with the world, and that’s one thing (maybe the only thing) that COVID made easy. “Having maternity leave during the pandemic has weirdly been helpful,” she tells SheKnows. “I feel like everybody is on maternity leave.”
Kaling welcomed Spencer Avu Kaling on September 3, and told the world on her own terms over a month later, with a quiet giddiness that I feel in our Zoom conversation too, when she talks about how comfortable baby Spencer is with strangers or her surprising discovery that there is such a thing as too many breadsticks. Home with 3-year-old daughter Katherine Swati and 4-month-old Spencer, having had instant teen heartbreak hit Never Have I Ever already renewed for season 2 at Netflix, Kaling seems to be watching the pieces fall into place. But if you ask her, she’ll tell you a very different story.
If I give my 4-month-old son to a stranger, he’ll be like, ‘great, this is my mom now, bye!’
“Last New Year’s I made a vision board for myself because I had read about it in some magazine and I loved doing it,” she tells me. “It felt like a great throwback arts project. But then nothing came true on my vision board and I got mad and tore it up and threw it out.”
Ever-evolving, Kaling has opted out of making a 2021 vision board, and is focusing on the small ways she can make it easier to get through the day. Now that she’s cooking so often (and cooking for three), she’s given up on her “little gourmet meals that take forever” and is fully addicted to “shorter, more healthful, impactful meals” — as in, meals that won’t leave you groggy and cranky two hours later.
For that, she turns to Campbell’s Well Yes! soups, a nourishing option that she knows her kids will eat. After all, Kaling has a night shift to keep up with. She’s already completed her next movie project, Locked Down with Anne Hathaway, and her new HBO Max series,The Sex Lives of College Girls, isn’t going to write itself.
Speaking of sex lives — when I ask about Kaling’s dating life these days, she demurs, telling me she prefers to quiz her younger assistants about their love lives. She’s adamant that online dating isn’t for her, and mentions that she’s always loved those Bridgerton-esque families of all daughters who have to be married off. I get the feeling that Kaling would rather worry about her hypothetical nine daughters’ love lives than her own, just like she’d rather worry about the hypothetical love lives of four college girls at an East Coast liberal arts school. When it comes to rom-coms, Kaling reminds me, she’s in the writer’s seat.
Read on for our full interview with Kaling on her new son, her quickly-changing life, and what’s coming next.
Last New Year’s I made a vision board for myself because I had read about it in some magazine and I loved doing it. But then nothing came true on my vision board and I got mad and tore it up and threw it out.
SheKnows: I want to know all about baby Spencer. Did you secretly hope you were having another girl or boy?
Mindy Kaling: I’m one of those people that I was excited and happy for either. You know, as a Jane Austen fan, I think I am obsessed with those families that have like nine daughters and you have to marry them all off. And since I don’t have that fear in 2020, I don’t have that Bridgerton or Jane Austen fear of having to marry them all off, I thought that would be fun. But it was delightful. It’s been delightful having my son, his personality is so different than my daughter’s. It’s been an amazing time.
SK: How’s his personality different?
MK: So my my daughter is very funny and very smart and is affectionate, but it’s really kind of on her terms. And my son is so smiley and bubbly that — for the first year of my daughter’s life as a baby, if you gave her to somebody else, she would start screaming because she only wanted to be around her people. But my son, if I give my 4-month-old son to a stranger, he’ll be like, ‘great, this is my mom now, bye!’ I think he’s just he’s really happy with strangers. He’s just a little bit more of a chill, easygoing kid.
SK: What is something you found yourself doing as a mom that you never thought you would do?
MK: You know, honestly, I think that’s such a good question. I think a lot of cooking, I used to love cooking for myself like little gourmet meals that would take forever. And now I think because of the amount of time — because of the amount of children I have, actually — making shorter, more healthful, impactful meals has been huge. I’m using the air fryer all the time and making really simple recipes. I’m always having Well Yes! around because they’re completely nutritious and delicious and my daughter will just gobble, she’ll literally drink this entire thing in two seconds. And so yeah, it’s kind of learning how to cook, but not complicated recipes, just like simple, delicious things that take under 15 minutes to do.
SK: Is there anything that you miss about pre-mom life that you think about sometimes?
MK: I do. I have a friend who decided to rent out his house, and then he’s just living in different hotels around the country. So he’s going to be in Boston for a while and he’s going to be in Malibu and then he might go down to Texas. So that’s one thing is the kind of impetuous, last minute impulsive travel decisions. I definitely occasionally I will miss that.
I have never done any online dating or anything, so for me, that stuff feels… it’s a little nervous-making for me.
SK: And what is dating life like as a mom?
MK: Well, honestly, I have two young assistants who are in their twenties and I’m always grilling them about their dating life, particularly during the pandemic. But I am 41. So for me, I missed that window — people were meeting people online when I was in my 20s in New York, but I know there was a lot of baggage attached to it, you wouldn’t want to admit it openly that you met someone online. And now there just is not that stigma at all. And there has not been for over 10 years. And so I think that’s really cool. But because I didn’t come of age during this time, I still — I have never done any online dating or anything. For me, that stuff feels…it’s a little nervous-making for me.
SK: I want to hear about your next project, The Sex Lives of College Girls. How did you decide that’s what you want to focus on next?
MK: The Sex Lives of College Girls is a show about four — it should actually be called the Romantic Lives of College Girls, because as someone who had no sex in college, I was like, OK, well, this is sort of more of like wish fulfillment. But what we really wanted to do, Justin Noble my co-creator and I, he came from Never Have I Ever, was we wanted to show what a really East Coast college experience is like for women. There’s great shows on TV about college like Grown-ish, but it hasn’t really been cracked yet. And that is a very California looking school. But it’s so specific, this kind of East Coast liberal arts college experience. And there’s so many things I’ve not seen dramatized on TV, which is that it isn’t a melting pot, a lot of times at these East Coast colleges there are socio-economic differences between students. And there’s lots of culture shock when you come to college. And my best friends are from college. I wanted to show how those relationships are formed at a young age with young women. And so that’s what this show’s going to be about. And the cast is awesome. It’s a super diverse, really talented group of women.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Before you go, click here to see all the celebrities who kept the baby news a secret.