Fanny is officially broody. She stays in the nesting boxes all day and only comes out once or twice for food and water. When she does come out, its at a full run and she does not shift gears until she is back at the nest; quick run to the feeder for some corn, a scratch or two at some greens, a race to the water dish, and its back up the ramp and into the coop. The other hens give her wide berth…how do they know she is broody? Well it could be that she puffs and struts like a rooster. Running and poofing and doing her little dominant rooster dance in between the rush. And woe unto thee who reaches in to get some eggs….Fanny isn’t afraid to unleash a master display of Tom turkey style poofiness accompanied by a mighty Pterodactyl cry, regardless of who or what is bothering her. If I were a predator, I would think twice…hell I think twice anyway.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter if there are eggs or not. She broods anyway. Something in her biology tells her that she must hatch at all costs…even imaginary eggs, if need be. Her biological clock isn’t just ticking, it’s chimed. Oh the inexorable pull towards procreation. I almost envy Fanny. So simple….she woke up one day and just had to be a mother – no questions; no hesitation; no concerns about timing; no worries about whether she could afford it; no angst about how it would affect her professional or personal trajectory; no worries about whether she would be a good parent or even about adding one more mouth for the over populated planet to feed. She just woke up one morning and something in her genes told her to lay an egg and sit on it until she was beside herself with maternal fervor. A select few of my friends went through this at some point. Fewer even had been planning children their whole lives.
Clearly my clock is set to another time zone/dimension. It’s ticking, but slowly and quietly and it certainly hasn’t chimed yet. At least not for anything human. Baby animals are another story. M. calls it “baby animal fever”. He’s laughing about it now, but we both wonder if or when the urge will shift towards Homo sapiens and the laughing subsides. I never grew up thinking about marriage or children in the context of my own life. That was something other little girls dreamed about. But not me. I dreamed about riding horses as they ran wild and free at breakneck speed across the plains. I dreamed about being a mermaid and living in a castle at the bottom of our pool in Lagos. I dreamed about living at my grandmother’s ranch in the Venezuelan bosque and catching iguanas and giant toads and raising cattle. And though my dreams matured (kind of) in tandem with me, dreams of motherhood never materialized.
So here I am. Thirty-three years old and still no kids. And by now people are asking. My family has never pressured me (my mom is awesome that way), but they know well enough not to, should the urge arise. Because ultimately, its none of their business. Total strangers or simple acquaintances do not share their consideration. They make sure to remind me that “I’m not getting any younger”, or “my parents won’t be around forever, so you should have them soon” or “blah, blah…insert statistic about down syndrome here, blah, blah”. Do they actually think I haven’t thought of any of this stuff before, I ask myself as they yammer on, oblivious? Could they actually believe that I’ve managed to be on this planet 33 years without thinking about the implications of a) not having kids or b) waiting so long to do so? Its not like forgetting to take out the recycling on Monday night.
It seems to me that….despite the cultural shift towards the option to choose a career over family, a great deal of a woman’s “success” in this culture is still marked by reaching the motherhood milestone. And although men are measured by their professional success, no stranger or mere acquaintance would dare rebuke/question a man’s lack of career success in casual conversation. Can you imagine a conversation in which some random person says the following in the first 5 minutes of having met …well…lets call him Bill:
Acquaintance/Stranger: “Well, Bill, how much money do you make? (wide-eyed expectant look in anticipation of Bill’s impending response)
Bill: (pregnant pause)…(pun intended)…”uuuh….$40,000…but work just isn’t one of my priorities right now…not sure if it ever will be”.
Acquaintance/Stranger: “In-ter-esting, what does your family think about that?” (high eyebrows with expectant increase in pitch as they anticipate Bill’s apologetic tone)…you know you aren’t getting any younger (with a low, all knowing and almost parental tone).
Bill: (hands open, eyes towards sky, uncomfortable shifting and then evasive response) “sure, but like I said, work isn’t my end all be all…if I’m successful, then great, but I’ll be happy either way”.
Acquaintance/Stranger: “high eyebrows, wide eyes, mouth slightly open and head shaking up and down as in “sure buddy, whatever you say”). “I know, but think about what you will be missing. Making money and being successful can be so rewarding….and if you are going to be a success or make six figures, you really only have 10 more years.…AND, what if you change your mind? By then it will be too late… They don’t promote the old guys you know (repeat low, all knowing and almost parental tone).
Bill: (increasingly annoyed at this person’s presumption and patronizing line of questioning and lecturing tone) “I guess I’ll just have to take that chance”.
Acquaintance/Stranger: “Maybe you just need to find the right job! You know, I know a job that would be perfect for you…I could set you up!” (with the same look that the walrus gives the oysters – see Alice in Wonderland – just before he eats them, because we all know the walrus isn’t really interested in helping the oyster babies out).
Bill: “Oh gee, I appreciate that, but I like things just as they are. A new job isn’t going to change my priorities” (eyes veering off every 5 seconds looking for an escape route without being as rude as this acquaintance/stranger is being).
Once opened, this line of questioning/coaching could go on for hours. Maybe this has actually happened to some guy out there…maybe treatment like this from close family, perhaps, but a total stranger/acquaintance? I’ve never heard of it. Kind of rude and a wee bit obnoxious right?
Now…imagine the character is a woman and replace money/success with having children, and the word job with spouse/relationship….now can you imagine it? TOTALLY. Not only can I imagine it, it has happened to me and my friends. REPEATEDLY. God help you, if you get demonstrably defensive at some point. Then you get to be the bitter spinster harpy they always suspected you were.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yes, all of us 30+ year old women have thought about it (some have written it off completely and that’s just fine too)…many of us constantly grapple with the idea of having kids and the many implications at all levels. And some ladies out there, like me, aren’t sure why they don’t feel like they are “supposed to” yet, even though they think they want to have kids. They are just not there yet, but maybe hope to be. Unlike Fanny, we just don’t have it in us to brood yet. But do us a favor and don’t ask us about it unless you know us well enough to have earned that kind of private information OR, even better, until we bring it up directly. Because as Bill could tell you its rude. And more importantly, because you miss the chance to have a conversation with us about things we bothmight enjoy and want to discuss. Just sayin.