There’s an interesting thing that happens around this time of year—and it’s not the fact that you’re spending the better part of your salary (y’know, the part usually reserved for self care or your travel fund) on gifts for everyone in your life. Rather, if you have a device that streams content or a cable connection, you’re inundated with made-for-TV holiday movies. Somehow, most of these festive flicks—the Hallmark Channel alone features 37 holiday movies and a matching checklist app to ensure you don’t miss a celebratory second—feature a female protagonist who peddles the same trope. She’s a career gal, but she wants love too; heck, she wants to have it all.
Many of the stories go as follows: Ms. Business Lady (perhaps a chef, quaint bookshop employee, or interior designer) falls head over heels for Mr. Hometown Hunk. There’s snow! There’s cookies! There are eager looks shared in front of a fire—and probably a heartwarming game of Christmas charades! Plans are ripped up, and a newfound commitment to work-life balance is struck. Because, simply by deciding to do so, it’s possible in these movies to be everywhere, do everything, and reap the maximum rewards of happiness and fulfillment without any sacrifice—all while being well-rested, of course. So basically, just scatter my ashes at Hallmark HQ for all of eternity when the time comes, because these fictional worlds sound like heaven.
A quick scroll through the Hallmark Channel’s website provides evidence enough that this storyline is a winner. Christmas Joy, Road to Christmas, Mingle All the Way, and A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (which is indeed a real title featuring one Candace Cameron Bure) all explore the lives of women pondering, “can women have it all?” And Lifetime is chock-full of these films too, with Christmas Around the Corner telling the classic tale of “a savvy venture capitalist from New York City, [who] escapes to a quaint town in Vermont for the holidays.” Think she winds up in love by the end of the 90ish minutes? Ummm, does Buddy the Elf like syrup?
It’s possible in these movies to be everywhere, do everything, and reap the maximum rewards of happiness and fulfillment without any sacrifice—all while being well-rested, of course.
Turns out though, this sich of essentially having your healthy holiday cookie and eating it too doesn’t actually exist IRL. Because having it all is one thing, but having it all at the same time is an entirely different thing. “Nobody actually has it all, but there are still ways to be happy,” says New York–based career counselor and psychologist Eileen Sharaga, adding that at different points in life, it’s totally natural for career aspirations to take a back seat to personal-life priorities, and vice versa. Lauren Berger, career coach and Get It Together author, agrees. “It’s the definition of ‘happy’ that varies from person to person,” she says.
The best way to evoke the feeling of having it all, Sharaga says, is to cultivate from within, via your own sense of self-confidence. “It can come from work, and it very often does,” she says—but ideally, not just from work. So the real takeaway from these made-for-TV movies? Seeking to satisfy all of your fulfillment via just one area in life isn’t the best way to be the most happy.
Maybe the reason the films are so bingeable (as evidenced by the sheer volume of them) is because we already know this reality to be true, but the sappy suspension of disbelief rom-coms asks viewers to extend appeals to fairy-tale-loving sense of holiday cheer. If there’s any time of year when a chance encounter spawns a charmed series of events that leads someone to find her soul mate without having to compromise a single thing in her already full life, it’s gotta be the magical holiday season.
One thing’s for sure about work-life balance: Your sweat sesh and Netflix habits don’t have to compromise your career goals. And that’s great news because you should definitely be watching The Great British Baking Show—here’s why.
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