The largest part of my identity comes from being a mother, homemaker, helpmeet, and partner. I consider them all one and the same - my "home" identity, made up of all the things I do for, with, and to my family.
Recently a health problem I've had for nearly half my life has progressed to the point where it is now interfering with my ability to fully carry out the tasks I see as integral to my "home" identity. My right shoulder has bothered me since I was in college but now it hurts enough that I went to the doctor and got an x-ray. She diagnosed mild osteoarthritis in two of the shoulder joints based on bone spurs and my history of chronic pain. Most likely there is damage to the rotator cuff as well, which just adds to the almost-constant pain.
Long story short: I can't go to the grocery store by myself because I can't maneuver a cart full of groceries. I can't do a full day of chores around the house because I end up with my arm in a sling for the next two days to alleviate the pain. I can't run the vacuum cleaner or make the bed by myself. I can make dinner most of the time but often I rely on the kids or Austin to help lift heavy pans (when feeding five people there are often large, heavy pans) or chop vegetables. Austin made a rule the other day that I can't scrub the counters because it hurts too much. I am to ask him to do it or get one of the kids to help.
I have to admit to feeling rather "less than" as a mother and fiancee based on what I see as my limited usefulness in an arena where I used to function almost perfectly. My house has never been spotless and my sink almost always has dishes in it, but the family was fed and had clean clothes to wear when they needed them, the house was livable and pleasant, and I knew I was capable of taking care of just about anything. Having been a single mom for eight years, I learned to count on myself for anything other than moving furniture or installing my giant window A/C unit every summer.
Austin is doing his best to make sure I am taken care of until things get better. But that in itself is part of the problem - things are most likely going to get worse before they get better. I'm going to have to get to the point where surgery is the only option then spend however many weeks or months recovering from that once it's done. Until then my functioning will continue to degenerate, just like my joints.
This is mostly me whining and processing while trying to figure out how it fits in with our new relationship dynamic. Austin is fully aware of my limitations and most of his care of me centers around making sure I stay as healthy as possible, whether by icing my shoulder, getting to bed on time, or taking whatever I need to stay relatively comfortable. Before I would have mostly ignored his advice but now I am compelled to follow it, almost as a knee-jerk reaction to having someone filling the position of a dominant figure in my life.