The Bad Balabusta Part II

The Bad Balabusta Part II

I received a comment from JewishMOM Amanda Bradley on last week’s article “The Bad Balabusta” and it moved me deeply. Amanda wrote:

“Recently, a young mother in our community passed away very suddenly. She was superlative in the love and care she poured onto her children and husband. And you know, not one eulogy (formal or informal) has said ‘she was a fantastic cook’ or ‘her house was really spotless’ or ‘she never bought her challahs.’ Which is not to say that any of those were not true, but that they were meaningless beside the real loss, which was of her love and her care. Since then, I have thought that women have our own version of ‘You can’t take the millions with you’ and ‘No one ever says on their deathbed that they wish they’d spent more time at the office.’ Our motherly version is ‘You can’t take your spotless bathtub with you’ and ‘No one ever says on their deathbed that they should have cooked gourmet.’ What matters is the love we give our children, and as long as their basic needs are met, the rest is trivia.”

Amanda’s poignant comment reminded me of a visit I paid five years ago to my very, very ill friend Ainat 6 months before she passed away.

Before Ainat had developed cancer two years before, Ainat had been one of the super balabustas of Jerusalem. True to her Moroccan upbringing, Ainat had been a fantastic, proud, and prolific cook to the extent that (and I think this might be the sign of a true super balabusta) she even prepared a special cooked sit-down meal for her husband and 3 small daughters on Friday afternoons. Ainat had also kept her house as clean all year round as the Weisberg house gets about once a year, during the 24 hours before seder night.

But by that point, it had been many months since Ainat had even lifted a finger in the kitchen. It had been many months since Ainat had even picked up a broom or a vacuum cleaner. And it had been many months since Ainat had been even a shadow of the super-balabusta she once was.

But if you had seen the joy, the serenity that filled the faces of Ainat’s poor children when she was well enough to be released from the hospital for those short home visits… If you had seen how her poor husband, Yitzhak, was simply a different man when his wife, the center of his whole world, was with him…If you had seen how their home was just a different place when Ainat was there. Like the difference between the unsettled DP camp feel of a Jewish home at 2 PM Friday afternoon vs. the feel of a Jewish home at 6 PM Friday, with Eema on the sofa with her children reading a story awash in the healing light of the Shabbat candles.

And it didn’t matter that morning when I visited Ainat that there was no smell of shnitzel frying in the kitchen. And it didn’t matter that nobody had swept behind the sofa in months. And it didn’t even matter that Ainat was no longer the homework helping, dress sewing, story-telling supermom dynamo that she once was.

All that mattered was that Eema, the heart of the family, was home. And all the rest, as Amanda said, was trivia.

L’ilui nishmat Shaindel bat Yehoshua

Photo courtesy of user Irina Patrascu


  1. Nothing more true, Chana, and also the hardest thing to accomplish. It’s much easier to be a good cook than a loving mom. Beezrat H’ should we be zochot to reach that high level!

  2. Grannie Annie from the Shomron

    So proud to be a bad balabusta.

  3. This is post is exactly what I needed to hear. What a profound point: from your kids perspective is there any difference between you are “too busy” because you are bleaching the bathtub or “too busy” because you have to work?
    A great message for us overly-guilted Work-at-Home-Mom’s too!

  4. Hadassah Aber

    Having recently gone to a class on how to do a Tahara (preparation of a mes for a funeral) this article struck home with me. I work out of the home but try to find time for my teenagers still at home. Your suggestion about blessing them as they start their day was at first greeted with a laugh when I told them I would bless them, but I know they appreciate it because my 14 came over to remind me to give his brocha before he went to bed. (I have moved the timing up – since he leaves the house at 6:40 and I am not usually ready to see him off. Thank you for helping us keep our goals in mind and focus on what is truly important.

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