Let me just be straight up honest here: I do not look forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. Being even more honest, my husband is actually more of the cook than I am, so he probably wouldn’t really understand my fuss.

But there’s a reason behind what some may think is madness. It’s the holiday season, I know. I should be in a jolly mood and looking forward to spending time with loved ones and carrying on family traditions. And don’t get me wrong—I am excited about those things. But this year, I could go without the added pressure of preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.

Related: 25 simple ways to make Thanksgiving dinner planning easier 

The one thing that’s changed since last Thanksgiving and this upcoming one is that this will be my second holiday season as a mother—and all I can say is this: I get it now.

The holiday season is stressful for mothers. The mental load of the holidays on moms alone is overwhelming. Once October hits, it’s like we don’t get a break for three to four months straight. 

From scheduling holiday family photos to mailing out cards to finding matching pajama sets to preparing the fanciest of meals and hosting loved ones and friends over—it is all just. so. much. 

We can create boundaries and find a balance so we aren’t overwhelmed by the holiday pressure.

Last year was the first holiday season as a family of three and in our new home. I admit that I was in a true “infatuation stage” and wanted to experience the thrills of the holidays for the first time with my child. My husband and I made our house that house for the holidays last year. We wanted to host everything. 

And when we host, we tend to kind of (honestly, maybe more than kind of) go all out. I believe it’s a mixture of beginning new traditions for our family and adopting old traditions from our childhoods that we want to continue cherishing. Whatever it is, we have high standards when it comes to the holiday season.

Related: 8 tips to keep you sane while traveling with kids this Thanksgiving 

But in all honesty, for this year at least, I don’t want the overwhelm of hosting the holidays. Like cooking Thanksgiving dinner or loading a bunch of presents under the Christmas tree for all of our family. 

This year, I’d rather just indulge in a non-traditional, laid back celebration while still making it meaningful and magical for my family. 

Because the holidays don’t have to be stressful or over the top in order to be purposeful. The real gift is being able to be in the company of loved ones—and that can be done without a 12-course meal.

Cooking Thanksgiving dinner is just another aspect of meal prep—and many moms are already consumed by the weight of meal prepping for most of the 365 days of the year. So maybe we’d rather not take on multiplying that stress by a thousand just to prepare an extreme Thanksgiving dinner.

Related: The mental load of feeding a family is heavy—and moms often carry it

Maybe we’d rather be hands-off. Maybe we’d rather not be the ones preparing for Thanksgiving dinner at all—and instead pass the baton to our husbands or someone else in our family. Maybe we’d rather do Thanksgiving potluck style and have everyone bring a dish to contribute, which would alleviate the stress from falling on one or two people. 

Whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving, mama, just know that it’s OK if you’re not looking forward to cooking dinner—and go with the option that doesn’t put you under an insane amount of pressure. 

We can make the holiday season awe-filled and passionate for our families—but we can create boundaries and find a balance so we aren’t overwhelmed by the holiday pressure. Because moms deserve to enjoy the holidays, too. And this year, I think I’ll do just that—minus the stress.

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