Balancing the Big Stuff
by Miriam Liss and Holly H. Schiffrin



Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. ISBN 978-1-442-22335-6.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 02/01/2015

Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

This book's subtitle sums it up nicely: Finding Happiness in Work, Family and Life. That's exactly what Liss and Schiffrin discuss in this timely and well-researched book that should be a must read for men and women alike.

Authors Liss and Schiffrin write that the key to all of life is "finding the sweet spot" where "not too much of any one thing, but just enough of everything" brings intrinsic motivation to an individual. And at the heart of this intrinsic motivation are three things: autonomy, competence and relatedness. This is not a book about "mommy issues." In fact, this isn't even a book solely about women's issues. Finding happiness in all of life is an issue for everyone—male or female.

The authors tackle such issues as finding balance, balancing multiple roles, parenting, the benefits of work, child rearing principles, corporate expectations, money, integrity and gender differences.

It may come as a surprise to some, but authors Liss and Schiffrin boldly pronounce that "there can be too much of a good thing!" Using sound research to back up their statements, they point out that balance is not always a guaranteed path to happiness but go one step further:

What really matters is whether people involve themselves in activities that allow them to meet their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness... Being meaningfully involved in both work and family life creates more opportunities to feel a sense of autonomy, to feel competent, and to make meaningful social connections.

With my own children grown and gone from my house, one might think that this information is no longer relevant to me. But I found this book to be validating and enlightening to this grandmother who is well into her sixth decade and questioning her current work/home life balance.

I would highly recommend this book to my children, my co-workers and friends. My thanks to the authors for taking the time to so thoroughly explore this subject and for presenting it in a factual yet friendly and encouraging way.


Miriam Liss is professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington. She is a clinical psychologist and is widely published in the areas of feminism, division of labor, and parenting as well as in the areas of autism and developmental disorders. Her articles have been published in numerous psychology journals including Psychology of Women Quarterly, Sex Roles, Journal of Child and Family Studies, Autism, and the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. She has also presented her research at the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science meetings. She has been interviewed for her work on intensive and attachment parenting for the Washington Post, MSNBC.com, and Live Science. She was recently named one of Princeton Review's Best 300 Professors.

Holly H. Schiffrin, associate professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington, specializes in child development, parenting practices, and early intervention. She has had several articles published in professional journals. In addition, she has given numerous presentations at conferences. Schiffrin recently served as president of the Virginia Academic and Applied Psychologist Academy of the Virginia Psychological Association. She has been interviewed about her research on several radio programs across the nation as well as interviewed for articles on parenting and well-being in Time.com, various newspapers, and local parenting magazines.

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