Moms faking it 'til they make it

Aug 8, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. ET

A smile is plastered across your face, you even throw your head back and laugh as your mom friend tells stories of her little one's latest antics. But inside, you don't feel as happy as you look. Your days as a mom are starting to feel routine, your life a little stale. And even though you love being a mom — and love your kids, of course — you're not feeling completely fulfilled. You know you need something else in your life, but what? Read on for experts' tips for how to become a truly happier mom.

You're not alone — even though you think you are

When you're at the grocery store, they're shopping in the aisle next to you. When you're dropping your kids off at school, they're driving carpool in the next lane. When you're watching your kids play soccer, they're also daydreaming of other places they could be. These are moms who are faking it, who are smiling on the outside even though they feel unfulfilled on the inside. Moms searching for happiness.

”I think we have all been there; parenting, like anything, has its highs and its lows. It is important to understand a few things about the relationship between thoughts and feelings before you beat yourself up about dreading another trip to the park or secretly wishing you could trade places with your kid-less friends for a day,” says life coach Jennie Aguirre.

By making some simple changes, you can turn your fake smile into an authentic one.

Talk about it

In this case, silence is not golden. Keeping your feelings of unhappiness inside will only make you feel more isolated and alone. If you open up to other moms you might be surprised what you find out from them (even your own best friend).

”It's extremely important to talk to people about your struggles as a mom. We all have them, some more than others. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Surround yourself with a supportive, honest group of other mothers to be friends with and share the ups and downs of parenting. It can be so validating to hear another parent struggling with the same issue you might be [having],” says Lori Freson, a marriage and family therapist.

A negative thought can be just a thought, nothing more

If you have a negative thought about being a mom, it can make you feel terrible inside. But Aguirre urges mothers to understand that just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you believe it. ”You choose what thoughts you hold on to and if the thought is creating the feeling you don't want to be having, change the thought. As you go through the day, pay attention — if you are feeling sad, what are you thinking? If you feel frustrated, what are you thinking? Change the thought and you change the feeling,” stresses Aguirre.

6 Reasons you aren't happy and how to change it >>

Have couple time

How much time have you and your partner spent together lately? As parents, it can be easy to fall into a routine of just parenting, but reprioritizing your marriage can make you happier. Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, a marriage and family therapist and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage says moms should look at their marriages as a way to become more fulfilled.

“Often women ?throw themselves into parenting, and without realizing it, have relegated ?their partner to second, third or fourth priority, with the assumption that they ?will again (soon) make their partner No. 1. The time goes by and that goal ?seems impossible. ?Stop and consider that one of the greatest gifts you can give your ?child(ren) is a happy marriage and you and the rest of the family will ?suffer if this is not your first priority.”

You've heard it before, but the key really is balance

Your life really doesn’t have to be ’all mom, all the time.’ Freson says, ”It is so easy to get wrapped up in being a mom (and sometimes a wife, too), that we often forget to take care of ourselves. This then leads to stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression… the list goes on and on. In order to be both a good parent and truly happy requires you to find the time to create balance in your life, not always an easy task. It is especially challenging if you are a single parent.”

”Stop ’hostessing,’” says Aguirre. ”This is what I refer to as the woman who always puts everyone else ahead of herself but as a result she gives too much away. So often we think good moms put themselves last but this really isn't true. Great moms understand that you cannot pour from an empty pitcher. When you fly on a plane what do they tell you to do if the plane is about to crash? Put on your own oxygen mask first. The same applies in life.”

Read more about moms and happiness

Chasing the dream: How to find happiness as a mom
New book explores secrets to being a happy mom
Dads are less miserable parents than moms