Erin Wetzel is an illustrator and portrait artist. She lives in Washington state with her young family. Connect with her on Instagram where she documents everyday motherhood.

You can tell when we’re broke, because that’s when I run my art sales. Last week, we needed gas and groceries. I set a discount for art prints and made what we needed in six hours. One time I slashed prices on commissions and made enough to pay the mortgage.

I didn’t go to art school. My goal was never to have my work hang in the Guggenheim. I make art for more immediate reasons: to pay the bills. But, also, because it’s what I’m good at and what I love.

Most people say their children take them away from their art. That’s not my experience. If I never became a mother, I would have never become an artist. Many of my struggles in adulthood were exasperated by a lack of self knowledge and independence. When I chose to homeschool, I wanted to give my kids a chance to take risks early on when the stakes are low and I’m here to support them. I don’t want my girls growing up with a broken sense of how the world works. I want them to pursue truth and passion. But how could I do that if I wasn’t, on some level, pursuing the same?

Phoebe is five now, “school age.” Even though I believe in unschooling, I feel like it’s cheating because it is easier for me. So we bought a curriculum set, but never opened it. Phoebe has stopped playing the educational games on her iPad and keeps asking me to download fashion games and birth games. I stopped buying books about unschooling because I stopped reading them, but I still have them on my Amazon wish list. It’s hard to let go of the notion that I should be doing more to teach her.

Meanwhile, our friend lost the battle to cancer, leaving behind his wife and two young kids. When we talked about the death in front of Phoebe, she broke down crying and clung to her sister. “I don’t want you to die, Clemmy!” Matt doesn’t want Phoebe at the memorial service. He’s worried she’ll freak out. But funerals don’t scar young kids; being shielded from the grieving process is what causes psychological harm.

All of life is a learning experience.

People ask me, “How do you paint with young kids?” What they mean is, “I could never do that!”

But I’m not special—I’m just not afraid of being a mess. I can’t stop creating, so I hold my baby or set Phoebe up with paints, and I sit with them, and we paint. I don’t need time apart from my kids so I can paint. I carry them through with me.

One of the reasons we keep our kids home is because we’re rebelling against this notion of having perfect, segmented areas of life: she is teacher, she is mother, she is artist. Instead, we become all things, imperfectly, all mixed up together, and each role informs and shapes the others.