Sisterhood Blog

'Balebuste' Means Homemaker — Not Cleaning Lady

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

  • Print
  • Share Share

I’m interested that Debra and Elana chose to focus on the housecleaning dimension of the balebuste role that Elissa describes aspiring to in her youth. I thought balebuste meant homemaker, not cleaning lady.

Working at a marriage for many years, and watching it grow and change while raising children gives Debra and Elana different perspective. I don’t need to visit their homes to know that they likely have me beat in the arena of domestic expertise. They’ve been at it longer. Elissa and I are newer to this, and I imagine that vantage allows us to approach the homefront differently. I have yet to abandon my wide-eyed optimism or my dreamy naïveté about house making. Perhaps I’ll feel differently next decade. Maybe I won’t.

My mother had many jobs, but one of her favorites, a constant, was the curation of the home where I grew up. She kept it beautiful and comfortable. It was equally inviting to loved ones or strangers. Home-cooked food was always ready, many pets ran around our feet and nothing was too precious to pick up or sit on. There, she hosted seders, Thanksgiving dinners, pool parties for sports teams, even a banquet prior to my high school prom. I wish I could say my Brooklyn apartment was constantly ready to be photographed or host company, like my mother’s home or anything featured on the roster of design blogs I read, but it’s not. More often, my husband and I find ourselves scrambling to tidy in the minutes before guests arrive.

Keeping a clean and inviting home is hard work, and paying someone else to do it isn’t in our budget. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take pride in the result of the work, which is a place where I want to be more than any other.

I often think of my mother’s lovely ideal — a happy space, filled with beauty and food and always ready for visitors. I love design and collecting bits of furniture and treasures as our finances allow. The stress and patience of this process is part of the work of homemaking — what was once some rooms that stored both of our stuff is slowly becoming a home full of pieces we’ve chosen together. And I value caring for what we’ve assembled, even if I’d rather be sitting on the couch than wiping it down.

If a balebuste is a woman who strives to build the home that now holds not only herself, but also her family— then call me one. That not-always-pleasing job is pivotal in setting a tone in the early years of a marriage. How we create and treat our living space now forms our habits for the future. I’m still excited by this prospect.

And while a devoted partnership is ideal, there are still duties I relish that my husband just doesn’t. Like the last minute assembly of disparate things in the kitchen, and bam we have dinner. He’s impressed, and we’re both fed and content. Call me old fashioned, but this makes me happy.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Balebuste

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.