Willa is broody. Deeply broody. She is absolutely convinced that Mother’s Day is going to arrive for her.
She refuses to leave the nest and has to be lofted out of the coop, pecking and shrieking, to coax her into going for food and water a few times a day. And while the other hens enjoy a luxuriant sun bath, all she can think about is getting back on that nest.
She’s got the other hens in a muddle, creating an ongoing gridlock in the nesting box. “Get her out of here!”, pleads Edith, who simply wants to lay an egg and be on her way.
I try to reason with her.
“Willa. Listen. Those golf balls you’re sitting on are never going to be the baby chicks you’re hoping for.”
“And even if you had a baby chick or two, let me tell you, motherhood is tough! It’s relentless. All you do is think about those chicks and feed them and follow them around and watch over them night and day! Just ask Bella – she’s been through it.”
Bella, watching from the other side of the coop, doesn’t comment, but I think she remembers. She’s probably still tired out from raising Willa and Edith.
“Willa”, I plead, “once you have babies it’s never about you again. You sacrifice everything for them. Every little morsel. Every bit of privacy. You’re worn down, bedraggled, plagued with anxiety…all you ever think about is them!
Willa, obdurate, plants herself even more firmly on her clutch of golf balls.
“It never gets easier, Willa. They grow up but you worry about them just as much. It’s endless – first thought in the morning and last prayer at night is always for them.”
Bella shoots me a look. I know what she’s thinking. Mother hens are absolutely devoted for the six weeks or so it takes a chick to mature to adolescence, but then – boom, they kick them right out of the nest. Done. Finished. It’s a concept that seems to elude humans.
“Yes, Bella, I know…if only I’d had you around when I was raising children I would have learned a thing or two from you. But it doesn’t really work that way in my world.”
Willa and Bella are silent but they continue to study me, waiting for my admission. They know.
Their unspoken question is this:
“All the work. All the worry.
All the ways that motherhood tries you and costs you and changes you…all of that…
and isn’t it the truth that you would do it all over again in a heartbeat?
Isn’t the truth that it’s the best job in the world?
Isn’t it the greatest joy of your life?”
Those hens are a lot smarter than they look.
All right. Okay. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I am so lucky, so blessed to be a mom. It is, truly, the best job in the world and it is, truly, the greatest joy of my life.
Wishing a very Happy Mother’s Day to all the other chicks out there who feel the same way. Here’s to us!