In this paper, we provide an innovative conceptualization of the work–family balance, and its implications for mothers’ and fathers’ life satisfaction, by drawing on ‘Self Determination Theory’ and ‘Job Demand-Control–Support’ model for the ‘basic psychological needs’ in partnership, parenting, and work. We analyse whether work and family satisfaction have different meanings for mothers and fathers, and whether it has equal importance in determining overall life satisfaction by gender. Using a sample of dual-earner parents from the third (2010/11) to the eleventh (2018/19) waves of the German Family Panel (pairfam) panel survey. Our results support the idea that self-realization in partnership, parenting, and work are important for both men and for women. However, there is gender difference in the way that work and family satisfaction is conceived and also in the way that the combined satisfaction in these two life spheres affects overall life satisfaction.