I Had The Picture Perfect Life, But It Wasn’t A Happy One


We live in a tiny little house. In this tiny little house we pack four children, two dogs, two cats, a bird and an assortment of creatures into the petting zoo that our oldest daughter calls her basement bedroom.

The floors are slanted and creaky and the tile in the kitchen is missing most of its grout. The basement often floods in the spring, and in the winter you can almost see your breath in the upstairs bedrooms because for whatever reason the heat from our trusty old furnace doesn’t seem to make it up there.

We have mismatched appliances and second hand furniture in every room.


I love this tiny house. The creaks in the floors and cracks in the plaster are like poetry to my soul because this is home.

I don’t care that the houses on all sides of us are far bigger and much fancier. I don’t envy the vehicles in their driveways or notice if they take expensive vacations each year. I don’t compare our lives to theirs in any way.

I’m not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. And I have a very good reason for that.

You see many, many years ago there were only two children and I was married to a different man. A man who cared more about material possessions and instant gratification than his family.

And we had a big house.

A big, newly-built home with an incredible view of a lake. A big new home, nice vehicles and a boat in the driveway.

We had a little boy and a little girl. A “million dollar family” people used to say. We were, in fact, the Joneses. We were the postcard example of what society tells everyone they should want or aspire to be.

But inside the front door of that house there was a different story unfolding.

There was a life filled with alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity and violence. There was a life filled with overspending by a man who could never be satisfied, and hopelessness and despair.

There were two children who either never saw their father, or only saw him screaming at their mother or passed out in bed.

During those years, I often felt as though I was living in a reverse snow globe. The world outside of our home was sparkly and happy. Inside I tried desperately to calm things down, but no matter what I did, we just kept getting picked up and shaken around again.

From the outside, we were the envy of neighbors and friends. Inside, it was a nightmare that nearly destroyed me and my children.

I was fortunate to get away. With the support of family and friends who started to see what was truly happening, I was able to start a new life with my children.

And then, we met my husband who loves those children as his own, and we added two more. And then we bought this tiny little house.

This tiny little house with its cracks and creaks and secondhand everything.

This tiny little house filled with love, respect and so much laughter. This tiny little house where everyone feels secure and safe.

This tiny little house where even if our upstairs bedrooms are freezing cold, our hearts are filled with warmth.

This tiny little house where our two oldest children don’t ever feel they are missing out on bigger, fancier homes because they know what truly matters.

This tiny little house where both of those children exclaim on a regular basis how much they love it here and ask that we never move. And we won’t.

We aren’t the Joneses. And we don’t aspire to be.

I know firsthand that we can’t possibly know what’s happening behind the doors in the lives of others. And I also know how beautiful it is to be truly content with exactly what we have.

Love your life. Don’t be concerned with what others have or what society tells you to want or buy. If your little place on this earth is filled with love and respect and the warmth that comes from the safety of knowing people care about you, then you are already rich.

Don’t worry about the Joneses. They might happily trade in that six bedroom home for exactly what you have.

Jesica Ryzynski is a Writer/Blogger and highly caffeinated mother of four children ranging in age from preschool to highschool. Sharing the challenges of raising teens and little ones at the same time and trying to stay sane along the way.

Head over and check her out on Facebook


  1. What a great article Jessica! I saw this posted on ABC News. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s one that so many of us need to remember. Lasting wealth comes from what we invest in the ones we love, not in the things we “have.”

  2. This was a powerful article. Absolutely loved it. We live our lives the same way. I wish there were more people that felt this way in the world. There are so many people who are unhappy and they try to stuff the void with material items. The short-term high they experience with new material items only temporarily takes away the void. The void always comes back because they do not feel whole. People who feel loved and secure don’t experience this void. They feel whole because they feel satisfied and truly feel blessed with what they have, because they realize how precious it is.

  3. Hello Jesica,

    I enjoyed reading your article and also identified with it. You see, I am currently a “Joneses” ! Currently live in a fancy neighborhood, have 3 children, 2 dogs, and a husband that is never home. So reading your article is like reading my life story. Unlike you, I am yet to muster the courage and depart from such. Why? Unlike you I do not family/friend support. But reading your article gives me hope, that life can get better.

    Thank you so much!


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