The first time my nana called me a balabusta, I thought she was insulting me. But she explained that a balabusta is the one who gives strength and sustenance to a Jewish family. So, I guess I’m a balabusta.
The first time my nana called me a balabusta, I thought she was insulting me. I didn’t know what a balabusta was, but it didn’t sound like the kind of woman who puts orange zest in her holiday challah. Balabusta has a closet that smells like a latke. The word itself is thick as overcooked brisket. That, I am not.
But my nana explained that balabusta, Yiddish to describe a good homemaker, is the queen of the house. She is the spiritual guide, the one who gives strength and sustenance to a Jewish family. That, I am.
So, I guess I’m a balabusta. But the word still felt awkward on me, like clothes that were too big. I couldn’t get over how old it sounded. And I have a full on "shock and awe" campaign against aging, as my medicine cabinet stockpiled with retinol will demonstrate.
Being a nice little wife and mother, well, that’s not so modern. Or can it be? I remember an early episode of Mad Men, which showed Betty getting ready for Don to come home from work. Her hair was in rollers and her pretty, pleated outfit half on as she bathed her children and prepped dinner. There was a little urgency to the routine — daddy will be home soon and everything has to be perfect. Hair done, dress and heels on, red lipsticked lips smiling, children clean and fed, chilled drink in her outstretched hand.
It struck me because I usually wear the same lululemon pants for several days and getting my youngest son into the shower is like trying to bathe a panther. I wondered, in my modern woman’s attainment of freedom from the trap of “housewife,” (oh, I am so much more!) can’t I work a little harder at being a good homemaker? A real balabusta? And what does that really mean? What does that look like?
Well, oftentimes it looks like wilted and blackened zucchini, which is what happens when you forget it is in the oven.
So, in this blogeleh, I hope to explore all of the issues that come with contemporary Jewish parenting. In addition to raising two boys — Maxon, 9, and Ezra, almost 7 — I work full-time writing freelance marketing copy for various clients. Before this, I was a journalist for several years, writing for Channel 10 news, Main Line Life newspaper, Philadelphia Magazine and freelancing for women’s magazines such as Marie Claire, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Mademoiselle and Cosmopolitan.
Here, I am "Balabusta Rhymes" — a woman who keeps Shabbat and then Instagrams a picture of the dinner. A woman as psyched about her new Kiddush fountain as she is about concert tickets to The National. A woman who sometimes handles parenting frustration by crying in her closet, then getting over it by noticing something in the closet to sell on Poshmark.
In "Mother Words," I hope you’ll enjoy my musings on these domestic adventures. So, join me, all you modern balabustas — and fathers, too — as we balabust a gut to get a little shalom bayit.