Aasif Mandvi on New Parenthood in His 50s: 'I Didn't Know That I Wanted To Be a Dad Until I Had a Baby'
Aasif Mandvi's son was born in March 2020 right before the pandemic started. "He's our only child and I'm a first time parent and so I don't know what it's like to have a child not in a pandemic," says the actor, comedian, podcaster, producer, and writer. "I imagine it's very different. I mean I think one of the big differences for us was that he didn't get to see any of his family. In a normal world, my mother-in-law would've been here. My dad would've been here. My sister. We would've just had family here."
But that's not what happened, of course. Instead, The Daily Show correspondent and his wife, Shaifali Puri, spent the early days of new parenthood like so many other families: isolated because of COVID-19. But, Mandvi explains on Parents's We Are Family podcast, there was a silver lining.
"It would've been a village and I do think that human babies are meant to be raised in community and one of the things that I think children of this pandemic have been deprived of is that community," says Mandvi. "You know, the good thing was that we just got to spend a lot of time with him. Like, he got our undivided attention because neither me or my wife were going anywhere and we were just with him 24/7 so in a weird way, that was good. I felt like I got, as a father, I got a lot of real quality time with him in those first six months that I might not have gotten had the world not been the way it was."
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That undivided attention's hard to come by, especially because Mandvi is typically busy, to say the least. He's the lead actor, writer, and producer of the web series Halal in the Family as well as the HBO series The Brink. He's the author of the book No Land's Man, he has a podcast, Lost in the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi, and he's currently playing Ben Shakir in the CBS drama Evil. But it's life as a new dad that's really keeping him on his toes.
"I had a child much later in life than my parents did and I feel like the pros and the cons of being an older parent are there but one of the things that I think has been good for me is I was finally ready to have a child," says Mandvi. "I probably couldn't have had a child in my 20s and 30s. I think I was trying to figure out too much stuff. So I didn't have a child until I was in my 50s but I think that I am just so much more available and present and ready to do this."
For Mandvi, truly being there for his son and giving him a sense of security is a priority—especially after he was raised by his grandmother and he didn't reconnect with his parents until he was a toddler.
"One of my earliest memories is at 3 years old, coming back to Heathrow airport in London and meeting my parents for the first time and I had forgotten who they were and I didn't recognize my mother anymore, so I remember my grandmother being like, 'This is your mom,'" he recalls. "And I was like, 'Who is this woman?' And I remember her in a white sari and she's like kneeling down, she's reaching out for me and I'm hiding behind my grandmother, her sari, and being like, 'I don't want to go to this person, I don't know who she is.' I basically just forgot who my parents were."
His parents were young and just starting their life when they had him and simply not ready to have a child in a new country, he explains to We Are Family host Julia Dennison, but that doesn't mean it didn't affect him—including how he parents today.
"I'm very much aware of what happened to me psychologically and how it affected the rest of my life, in terms of being sent away from my mother and then being brought back to her and I think that those abandonment issues plagued me for most of my adult life," says Mandvi. "For me, I'm very aware of raising him with a deep sense of security around that and not wanting him to ever feel like we're not there for him. In a way that I maybe didn't have that sense of security."
Check out We Are Family Episode 17 now for more with Aasif Mandvi on pandemic parenting and life as a new dad.
Listen to Season 2, Episode 17 right now: