With the holiday season upon us, I felt the need to address an epidemic that seems to grow stronger and more vicious during the winter months. I’m not talking about the flu, though I’d argue the effects are just as detrimental on the health of women around the globe. I’m talking about the spirit Grinch that turns so many of us from Ms. Holly Jolly to Ho-Ho-Horrible over the holidays—MOMMY GUILT.

A friend of mine, with two kids under the age of six, went all out for Halloween. Her entire house looked like an Autumn Pinterest Board. When I told her how impressed I was with her effort she said “I freaking love Halloween. It’s all of the fun of the holidays without all of the guilt attached to Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Huh…there’s something to this…I thought.

Though the Mommy-Guilt struggle is real all year long, it comes to an ugly head as obligations and expectations soar during the “happiest time of the year”. I personally have always loved the holidays. I’m a December baby who for years believed that of the bright and glowing Christmas lights were just for me.

But now that I have a child and family of my own, I’m so much more aware of the expectations on me as the woman of the house. On top of all prior obligations, moms also have to figure out how to create magical memories that last a lifetime for our kids (no pressure!), decorate our houses like we’re Martha-freaking-Stuart, send out the cutest card to everyone on our list to show how together we are, and shower our extended family with lots of presents and our presence.

And our reward for all of our hard work? Standing in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up while the rest of our family enjoys the day socializing and watching football. Merry. Freaking. Everything. (And if you don’t cook or clean…how selfish are you? I’m immediately revoking your Lady Card! You actually have the audacity to enjoy the day?)

Look, I know I’m generalizing here. There are plenty of men who contribute during the holidays, and extra special hats off to the men out there who do the holiday cooking and/or cleaning. But this was not the dynamic in my family growing up and though my mother was a Super Saint during the holidays, I’m not eager to follow in her very tired footsteps.

As a mom of a toddler, I’m acutely aware that I have only scratched the surface on how deep this Mommy Guilt during the holidays goes—I don’t have to deal with the school plays, concerts, and projects, yet, but I see the stress on my friends with older kids. In short, so many women out there are running around in a frenzy, motivated by their fear of disappointing or failing someone this time of year…spreading themselves so thin they spend their holidays feeling overwhelmed and run down.

And so, for all those mothers out there who’ve experienced or are experiencing this thing called Mommy Guilt, here are some ideas for how to bring a little more comfort & joy to your holiday season:

If you’re not into cooking:

  • Start a tradition of going out to dinner, ordering food from a favorite restaurant, or suggest a potluck so everyone only has to bring one thing (and yes, your thing can be store bought!).

To avoid hours of clean up:

  • Use disposable plates and utensils for these two days out of the year where the dishes tend to pile higher than the presents.

To avoid stressful hours of shopping:

  • Ask family members to create and send you their Amazon Wish List so you don’t have to guess or spend your precious time searching for the perfect present at a retail store.
  • Suggest a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange with a spending limit for all adults.

To avoid the stress of Holiday Cards:

  • Be a rebel and send a card during the time of the year that’s best for you. It will be even more fun for everyone to receive because it’s unexpected. Gretchen Rubin, writer & happiness researcher, says she sends Valentine’s Day cards instead of holiday cards. Such a great idea!

Say no to anything optional that doesn’t bring you joy. Yes, that may include disappointing some people and that’s okay. You matter, too.

You may love cooking, decorating, and shopping on top of everything else you do—you may be in the camp that finds it therapeutic. But if you don’t, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. The holidays are supposed to be happy for everyone, not everyone but mom. Lose the Mommy Guilt and your Holiday To Do list will suddenly look a whole lot nicer.