How I Balance Writing, Parenting and Chronic Illness

Guest post by: Tara Mandarano

I’m staring at the stain-glass tower on the church outside my bedroom window when my five-year-old daughter bursts in. It’s after school, post after care, and I am exactly where she so often finds me: lying in bed, curled up with pillows, painkillers and my rose-gold computer, writing.

She is my muse and my teacher, challenging and charming at the same time, and I have been chronicling our lives together for over three years now. It’s not easy putting your private life out there for public consumption, but there is no better way for me to process everything than to get it all down on a page or up on a screen.

After I got laid off from my marketing job while on maternity leave in 2014, it forced me to look inside and discover what I really enjoyed doing. The answer was easy and instant in my heart: writing.

While working part-time as a web producer from home to make a regular income, I also created my own blog and started submitting my work to various parenting websites and magazines. It didn’t matter that it was all online. It didn’t matter that it was mostly other mothers reading it. In fact, that’s what I continue to love about it. The way I can reach strangers and people I’ll never meet, and let them know they’re not alone in their struggles.

My articles are mainly focused on the infinite highs and lows of motherhood, but I’ve begun to branch out and write about mental health and chronic illness. Describing my experiences with bipolar 2, anxiety, postpartum depression, endometriosis and fibromyalgia gives me the power to own my story. Then there are the countless people who contact me to tell me that my vulnerability and bravery have helped them in their own journey.

These days I wear many freelancing hats. I’m a content editor for a marketing company. I copyedit romance novels and self-published manuscripts. I also write hotel promotional copy. Working from home has been a blessing, especially on days when my pain flares up or my mood plummets.

Parenting isn’t easy when you have mental health and chronic illness challenges, but my husband is a godsend. So is medication, and talking to a psychiatrist. But writing remains my best therapy. It’s my passion and my medicine.

Last year I joined a monthly subscription program to ensure I keep connecting to the joy of writing. Whether it’s creating found poetry or describing life from a bedsheet’s point of view, it’s fun and invigorating—and something just for me.

It’s definitely a balancing act managing parenting, writing and chronic illness, but I don’t know anything else. I have to carve out dedicated space for all three. I give myself space and rest when I need it, and I devote time to my family every chance I get. Then I just have to trust and let it be. And somehow, through it all, my fingers always manage to find their way to the keys.

Tara Mandarano is a writer, editor and copyeditor based in Canada. She is also a fierce mental health and chronic illness advocate. She balances life with a tyrannical toddler by consistently reading past her bedtime. Her work has also been published on Canadian LivingThe Huffington Post, The Sunlight PressMogul, Mothers Always WriteThought Catalog and Mamalode. Visit taramandarano.com to see more of her writing, or follow her on Instagram @taramandarano.

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