On Chores

Today Petra and I dropped off the car for a Warrant of Fitness check (in New Zealand cars get this roadworthiness check every 6 months) and service. The WOF place is a blokey environment – I was the only woman in there both when I dropped off and picked up the car. Car management would seem usually to fall to the man in the household. But, I’m the one at home during the day so it makes sense for me to do it.

Lot of odd grown-up undertakings fall to me because I’m the one who’s free. I’m the buyer of paint and employer of plumbers and plasterers and electricians. I’m the collector of packing materials and the arranger of moving vans and men. And, as a result, I find myself in unfamiliar environments fairly regularly. Petra and I bought paint at the trade paint store in Dunedin, lining up with the guys in paint-splattered white overalls, who were knowledgeably buying house-lots of paint, to buy our one tin of Antique White ceiling paint or whatever it was. I don’t reckon they served a lot of women balancing a toddler on one arm and lugging paint tins with the other.

And, I find myself having to learn unexpected things on the spot. Today, I had to reinstall Petra’s carseat because the mechanics uninstalled it to check the back seatbelts and don’t reinstall it for you because of insurance liability issues. I’ve never installed a fixed carseat before but I had no choice but to learn how, because Petra needed it to get home. So I fumbled around with the seatbelts and hooks and managed to reattach it. I was proud of myself for figuring it out as well.

Being forced out of my usual round and having to work out unfamiliar situations is a good thing, if sometimes nerve-wracking. I find out that I’m more competent than I suspected. And I find out that mostly people are helpful and friendly if you let them be. Which is comforting.

Having Petra along when I’m not sure about a situation is interesting as well. The world is different when I’m in it with her. Because I have to focus on her, make sure she’s keeping up and is comfortable and happy, I don’t have the time or emotional space to focus on my own feelings. I don’t want to stress her out with my reactions either. And so I don’t get nervous or upset the way I otherwise might, even when I’m dealing with stressful things like the dentist telling me that I need a root canal.

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