Mindy Kaling discusses having 2 children as a single woman: 'I am stronger now'
Duchess Meghan and Mindy Kaling candidly discussed the pressures they've faced since they were young girls to aspire to marriage and have children on Tuesday's episode of her "Archetypes" podcast.
The Duchess of Sussex, 41, opened the episode by recalling when she was little that her homework assignment was to imagine her dream wedding. At the time, the idea gave her immense joy. But upon reflection, she realized the long-term implications.
"At no point could you say, 'Nope. My dream for the future is to be single.' The message, even at my feminist all-girls school, was as traditional as it gets: First comes love, then comes marriage," the podcast host said. "It’s no wonder that, in some circles, the single woman – this idea of being unmarried – still carries a stigma."
Duchess Meghan brought Kaling as a guest to discuss the decision she made to have two children while single and how that compared to the comedy writer's early childhood perceptions of what a family is supposed to look like.
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Kaling, 43, shared with Duchess Meghan that despite being untraditional by Western standards, she always pictured herself married with children.
"I'm a highly traditional person. I came from a really happy sort of nuclear family. Mom, dad. And I wanted that for myself, plus more," she said. "Growing up, I used to write in journals like, 'I'm going to be married to a guy named Josh and we're going to have five children and I’m gonna start having kids when I'm 24.'"
Kaling continued: "But 24 came and went. No Josh. No marriage. No four kids. And I started as a writer on 'The Office' when I was 24. … I was just so focused on keeping that job and earning money and earning a good reputation professionally. And so it just happened."
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At the age of 24, the "Sex Lives of College Girls" creator said she didn't see potential in any of her relationships. "Often, I'd be in relationships because I wanted someone to go to the Arclight with on a Saturday night, so I didn't have to go see a movie by myself," she admitted.
Kaling couldn't fathom the idea of marrying just anyone just because she was getting older.
Meghan commended her, telling Kaling, "It's amazing. It's amazing to not compromise that because there's a lot of pressure."
"The Office" alum offered that she is "probably more judgmental than (Meghan). My life is filled with women who are late thirties, early forties who are so successful. And they have partners who aren't," Kaling said. "I don't think that I could be in a relationship with someone who wasn't the same way."
Kaling added that she's not technically a single mother either, because her dad, stepmother and live-in nanny all help raise her children. "I have my community that allows me to have that decision," she said of parenting. "I waited until I was in my late thirties to have children because I knew I needed the resources to be able to do it comfortably."
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Kaling said she often fell into relationships for the sake of companionship and as a way to symbolize her desirability.
"I grew up dark-skinned Indian girl, overweight, glasses, in lily-white suburbs of Boston, never thinking I was attractive," she said. "And I think a feeling of belonging was if a man deigns to make you their girlfriend."
Despite her success, she still felt like she couldn't shake her perception that she didn't "feel attractive unless you have a boyfriend" and that for much of high school and college she was "always a spectator" to love.
"So many of my shows right now are about young women and longing and feeling horny and feeling rejected. And I've learned a lot from that," Kaling continued. "So (in) my twenties, I'm in these relationships with guys that I'm like, 'If someone were to take a photo of us, would the photo look good?' … I am stronger now and more confident."
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Meghan related to that same insecurity, sharing that she was the "ugly duckling" growing up and it shaped the way she viewed relationships. She has since grown in confidence and pointed out how misogyny still plays a role in how others see her marriage to Prince Harry.
"When I started dating my husband, we became engaged and everyone was just like, 'Oh my God, you're so lucky he chose you.' And at a certain point, after you hear it a million times over, you're like, 'Well, I chose him too,'" Meghan said. "Thankfully, I have a partner who was countering that narrative for me and going, 'They've got it all wrong.' I'm the lucky one ‘cause you chose me.' "
The idea that certain women are "so lucky" for their relationships "just feeds into this idea that you're waiting for someone to tell you that you're good enough, as opposed to knowing that you're good enough on your own," she said.
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It's not to say that Kaling's insecurities still don't pop up every once and a while, she told Meghan.
"Why am I not the person that got married? I think that's harder to talk about. I'm still examining it. Um, it makes me emotional," she admitted.
Kaling's cultural background has also played a role into her own critical lens of her life. "I haven't been to India since (I was) 14, but you start thinking, 'OK, what are my relatives in India think about this, you know? Is this causing tremendous shame upon our family that I made this decision?' I think I can make myself go crazy if I think too much about those things eventually," she said.
Meghan's "Archetypes" podcast aims to tackle "the labels and tropes that try to hold women back." Episodes are expected to be released weekly on Tuesdays.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle, Mindy Kaling talk 'pressure' of being a single woman