Am I bad mother? Or just a different one?

I have found that one of the hardest and most unexpected aspects of motherhood is judgement.. from other mothers. When Monkey was a baby I struggled a lot with this as I had honestly never expected that I would be so judged by other women in the same position as me. Judged about how I am feeding, what our routine is, how we got our baby to sleep, what he wore… literally everything. As he has grown and I have become a bit more confident it doesn’t affect me as much.. but every now and then I will read something that does affect me.

Because it is happening all the time. Mothers judging other Mothers over their parenting methods just because it is different to the way they have chosen. And it drives me mad.

Am I a bad motherI am a huge believer that all babies are different and that different things work for different children. There is not one method that is right for all babies. The same goes for parents. We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses so how can we possibly all parent the same? The point is surely that we are doing our best to raise healthy and happy children. I am sure we will all make mistakes along the way because we are human beings and we are imperfect. But we make the decisions that we feel are right at the time.

That is what bugs me most about all the judgement. The holier than thou attitude. The conviction of “I am right and you are wrong.” That somehow your choices make you a better parent than others. How can you possibly, possibly know this? You don’t live their life. You haven’t raised their child. You are living your life and raising your child. You are different so inevitably you make different choices. The right choices for you are not necessarily the right choices for others but that doesn’t make them wrong and it certainly doesn’t make them bad parents.

To illustrate my point I am going to highlight some of our choices, and the reasons we made them. These are choices we have made for us and our children and I am not saying that everyone should make the same choices, but I want to know if you think these choices make me a bad mother.

Natural birth vs Caesarean

I had two C-sections. I have a bicornuate uterus which meant that both Monkey and LM were breech and unable to turn head down. The medical advice was to have C-sections for the safety of both myself and my babies. I did a lot of research into natural breech births and learned that because most breech babies are delivered by c-section, that the skill of naturally delivering breech babies has fallen out of practice. Of course many midwives are skilled and capable of this but my research suggested that not all are and that it can be luck of the draw of who you get on the day. For me that wasn’t good enough and I chose the c-sections.

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This wasn’t what I wanted, I had hoped for a water birth with only gas and air. But sometimes what we want comes second to making sure my babies were safe. It turned out Monkey had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck 5 times, so I can’t regret the decision to have a c-section as I had my beautiful boy safely in my arms, whereas it could have been very different.

There have been some awful posters circulating the internet about women who have had c-sections being lesser Mothers, for taking the “easy” road. Some even go as far to say that we will go to hell because we have gone against God’s plan. That we should have had a natural delivery and if God wanted us or our baby to die then we should have allowed it to happen. I don’t even know where to begin arguing against this.

Do you think having C-sections made me a bad Mother?

Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding

Breastfeeding is seriously hard work. I persevered through some very difficult days when Monkey was a baby, mainly due to my own stubbornness and breastfed him until 6-7mths old. I stopped for many reasons. He had teeth from 4 mths and his lower teeth grazed on the underside of my breast giving me horrible sores. But mainly I stopped because I wanted my body back. I struggled with baby blues and needed to feel like myself. Selfish? Maybe. Human beings are selfish. I battled on for a while but eventually realised that my negative feelings about breastfeeding weren’t good for Monkey and I didn’t want to resent him.

With LM I breastfed for 6 weeks. With her reflux and (thankfully) temporary Lactose Intolerance, breastfeeding her was a nightmare and a lactose free formula was the right choice for us at that time. There are times when I look back and wish I could have breastfed her longer… but I couldn’t. I was at the end of my tether. Other women may be stronger and may have been able to persevere. But couldn’t and she was miserable and in pain. So I chose the next best thing for my baby. A happier Mummy and formula. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Babywearing or not

I love the idea of baby-wearing and always have. With Monkey we tried various slings and carriers but let me tell you he was not happy in there for long so it was a bit of a non-starter. With LM she did like our Beco Gemini carrier and so we did baby-wear to a point.

But the truth is I have a bad back and so does hubs, so baby-wearing hurts. It’s alright for a while but gradually it started wearing me down. I started suffering with my knee too from the jiggling and bouncing it usually took to get her to sleep in there. We found it exhausting and being exhausted does not make us better parents. We were more irritable and snappy with each other and our children so we realised it had to stop.

Does this make us bad parents?

Co-sleeping or not

Co-sleeping, quite simply, is not for me. I’m not the greatest sleeper at the best of times and have a bit of a weird claustrophobia type thing where I hate being cuddled or touched when I sleep. I find it suffocating and have to have my own space. I would rather sleep on my own on the floor than with a child on me. Obviously there have been nights where I have had a poorly child sleep on me in a chair so I can comfort them and they can sleep, but I don’t sleep. Again perhaps it is selfish but I just can’t do it. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Sleep Training

DSC_0552When Monkey was born I couldn’t bear the idea of cry it out, controlled crying, progressive wait, whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t bear the sound of his crying. So we did anything and everything else we could to get Monkey to sleep.

And we failed.

It got to the point where Monkey would spend around 4 hours every night crying in our arms.

We had a bedtime routine around 7pm and then we would spend the next few hours rocking him to sleep, shushing, patting, cuddling, singing letting him suck our fingers…. Taking it in turns to do whatever the hell we could to get him to sleep. Occasionally something would work but we could never make it work consistently and in general he would pass out from exhaustion around 11.

We would then be up regularly throughout the night with either hubs or I leaning over the cot with our little finger in his mouth to suck as that was the best way of keeping him asleep (yes we tried a dummy, many times, but he wasn’t having any of it). This led to me getting mastitis 3 times as I spent so much time pressed up against the side of his cot, crushing my milk ducts so I could reach his mouth to let him suck my finger. (Anyone who has had Mastitis will know that the pain and delirium is not a pleasant experience).

He also woke up miserable in the morning and was grouchy much of the time. In desperation we read Ferber’s book (it was one of many methods we had tried) and as I have said before, we liked the tone of the book and we gave it a go.

The first night it took 20 minutes. 20 minutes of him crying in his bed, with us going in every few minutes to comfort, reassure and soothe. 20 minutes of hell and soul searching and self-doubting and crying and chocolate eating as his cries hurt my soul….

But then he fell asleep.

It took 20 minutes rather than the 4 hours we were used to. He slept through the night and then woke up happy. For the first time since he was a newborn.

The next night it took a bit less time and so on for the next few days until he didn’t cry at all. He has been an amazing sleeper ever since and now when he cries in the night we go to him because we know that something is wrong.

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If Monkey had been content to fall asleep in our arms and then be transferred to his bed then I doubt we would ever have felt the need to try the technique. We have repeated the technique with LM as we have had similar struggles with sleep and it has worked for her. We didn’t try every other technique that we tried with Monkey and maybe we should have. She is a different baby and maybe a different technique would have worked for her. But we made the decision we felt was right at the time and she now loves her bed and falls asleep very easily at naptimes and bedtimes.

Does this make me a bad Mother?

I could go on and on. There’s weaning – purees or babyled? I know someone whose friend told her she was “disappointed in her” for not babyled weaning, even though she weaned her baby at 4 1/2 mths under Drs advice. Then if you do choose purees there’s whether you make them at home or use jars. I’m not even going to begin going into the whole being a stay at home mum vs being a working mother. You can read about why I made that choice here but just because I am a SAHM I certainly don’t think that everyone else should be.

Think what you will about my choices, but my children are happy, healthy and know they are loved. We are not perfect parents by a long shot and we are not raising perfect children, as that is impossible (though I do think they are pretty perfect I suspect I am slightly biased), but we are doing the absolute best we can.

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I just don’t understand why some Mothers feel they can only justify their choice by disparaging the choices of others., because I don’t see why you need to.

Of course we compare ourselves to each other and we questions our choices and their choices, because we all want to be the best we can be. But before you cast aspersions or treat someone who has made different choices to you like they are a bad mother, stop. Think about why  they may have made the choices that they made. Remember that they have made those choices in an effort to do what is best for them and their child. Remember that their child is not your child and different things work with different children

Also remember that they are not you and they have their own strengths and weaknesses. We don’t become perfect when we become a Mother. We don’t miracuously turn into selfless saints. We do love our children above all else and while many of us try and put everyone else’s needs above our own many of us find that is not sustainable and that to be the best Mother we can be we actually need to put ourselves first sometimes too. So sometimes we make the choice that is best for us as well as our children.

Maybe you disagree with this, maybe you disagree with a lot of what I have said here, and that’s fine. Because you are you and I am me and no doubt our life experiences are very different. If you are happy with the choices you have made and convinced that you are right, then good for you. I’m happy for you, honestly. But please don’t make other women feel bad or less than you because something different works for them.

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62 thoughts on “Am I bad mother? Or just a different one?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. So far I’ve made some of the same decisions as you, some different, but we’ve made our decisions for the same reasons – what is best for our families. And I don’t think anyone making a decision for that reason can ever be called a bad mother x

    • that’s exactly it and yet sometimes I feel that people don’t think about the reasons behind the decisions and just make a snap judgement which isn’t helpful! xx

  2. This is an absolutely brilliant post. Judgement is definitely one of the hardest parts of being a parent. I am with you on alot of what you said, I had 3 c-sections, struggled alot with breastfeeding, we resorted to letting them cry when we had tried everything else, and well it worked for us, and we all lived to tell the tale.
    Some of the decisions we make as parents are so hard to make, I’m sure most of us doubt ourselves daily, so the last thing we need is other people doubting us too.
    For the record from what I have read you seem like a fab parent to me :) xx

    • thanks Caroline, you’re so right we all question and judge ourselves so we don’t need anyone else to judge us too! xx

  3. I agree with everything you’ve said Caroline. We all get different bits of the experience to feel good and bad about – I got lucky with EJ and had that hoped for water birth with just gas and air but then I only managed to breastfeed him for five days. I sometimes wish I’d baby led weaned but not because of any judgement I’ve had from anyone just because everyone I know who did it seems to have an older child with an amazing palate and I’ve got one very fussy eater (who was more or less weaned on Ella’s Kitchen!). But then you’ve done amazing things with Monkey with crafting and just really putting him first as a SAHM and I feel like a bad mum for not having put that much focus and effort in with JJ. No one has the right to judge but sometimes I think we can be our own worst critcs. X

    • Thanks lovely yeah I question the whole purees vs babyled weaning all the time but actually think I am too much of a control freak to cope with BLW, and I have heard of one person say they hae a fussy eater after BLW, and actually there’s a lot of BLW that I just don’t understand and I don’t have the time to learn at the mo, so we are sticking with purees for now – I may regret that decision though :S Like you say we are our own worst critics and I have been angry at myself lately for the amount of time Monkey is spending in front of the TV or on the tablet, but I just don’t know how to manage the two of them otherwise! I think we all feel like a bad mum for one reason or another sometimes! xx

  4. Very well said. This is spot on. What works for one parent and one family does not work for another.

    I am feeling a lot of judgement right now based on my upcoming elective section and every time I hear people judge and complain about it I just keep thinking “but its not your body and you dont have to live with the trauma that I do”.

    I dont undersrand the judgement.

    • Thank you and I’m sorry to hear you are feeling judged. I don’t think anyone wants to have a csection in an ideal world, it is major surgery after all, but sometimes it is the safest or best route, for whatever reason, safety, mental health etc and noone has the right to judge us. It is better for mum and baby to be healthy and happy than the alternative in my book! xx

  5. A brilliantly written post Caroline. You are so right that we do judge each other far too much without knowing anything about the reasoning behind each others choices. We should cut each other a bit of slack as after all we are all trying to do the best for our children.

    • Thanks Sarah and we definitely need to cut each other a bit of slack and remember we are all doing our best! xx

  6. We are all soooo different and no answer is right at all! What should happen though is people shouldn’t judge and every family should feel happy and secure in the decisions they made! I should have asked you to take part in my “What’s Right for You” feature. Gets people to shout out their decisions and so far everyone is so different for so many different reasons xxx #maternitymondays

    • You’re totally right, I love your series and I would love to take part, I keep meaning to email you just never get round it! xx

  7. I took me months after we had Evie, realise that everything other mums/health visitors/doctors told me to do with Evie was just suggestions. It took me ages to get over the guilt of stopping breastfeeding at 3 months. I was being judged for breastfeeding. I was being judged for stopping breastfeeding. I am judged now because I am particular with Evie’s food & routine. I have thought so much that I am not a good mum because of these judgements. But my daughter is thriving, is healthy & is happy.

    Everyone thinks that there way is right. But instead of judging each other, we should all be so supportive of each other, because really we’re all great mums & are all doing an amazing job the best we can. I love that my friends raise their children differently. I love how diverse we all are. It makes us all unique. One of my friends actually has a little black book & every time ANYONE has ever told her she should be doing something differently, she has written it down in there. Some of the things are hilarious. She’s titled the little black book ‘Advice to Ignore (Most of the time)’ & she’s going to pass it along to her pregnant sister at her baby shower. xx

    #MaternityMondays

    • ooh I love he idea of that book, sounds like she has the right idea! I am the same as you with my friends, we all do things differently sometimes and sometimes we learn from each others experiences, other times we do it our own way but all our kids are happy and healthy and we respect each other’s right to parent in their own way xx

  8. This is a fantastic post, sadly so true how judgemental everyone is to each other. I have come across it for bottle feeding, giving a dummy, etc, etc. I have always been under the impression that a happy baby is a happy mum – no matter how you parent your child xx

    • Thanks lovely nd you’re right there are so many examples of it and it is a shame really as being a happy family is what counts above all else! xx

  9. I know I wrote a ‘passionate’ post about sleep training, and sit on the other side of the fence from you. But it was in response to being judged for my choices, so it seems no matter what you do you are judged. What upsets me most is that we have to justify our choices – that we feel like we have to explain ourselves. ‘I don’t want to’ should be more than sufficient reason enough without having to explain the ins and outs of our decisions. Great post x

    • Thanks hon and that is often what happens, being judged leads to feeling defensive and feeling that we have to justify our choices and you’re right we shouldn’t have to explain ourselves to anyone! xx

  10. This is a truly fantastic post. I beat myself up about having to have C sections, but actually all that matters is that our babies were delivered safely. It matters not how they arrive, how they are fed, how you transport them – it matters that you love them. Great post.

    • Thanks Kate and that is exactly it. All of our choices are made out of love and that is what counts above anything else! xx

  11. Such a great post and so thought-provoking. I agree that we shouldn’t judge other mothers – as you say we are not walking in their shoes and parenting their children. None of the things you have listed make you a bad mother – you are a wonderful mother, doing the best for your children under your own life’s circumstances. None of us are perfect, none of us get it right all the time but we try to do what we think is best in the situations we find ourselves in. Thank you for sharing x

    • Thank you Louise, you’ve hit the nail on the head and as long as we are doing the best we can that is all we can hope for, sometimes we will get it right, other times we won’t! xx

  12. It is so true that we are all very different people so why would we bring up our children in exactly the same way? I’m a firm believer in trying things out and finding the routine/technique that works for you. That said, before I was a mum I was guilty of quite a bid of judging. It just proves that you have no idea what you would do or what’s best until it happens to you. Great post! #MaternityMondays

    • That’s exactly it, I definitely judged more before I became a parent and it’s now that I realise how little I understood about parenting until I became a parent! xx

  13. A brilliant post! Parents need to make the right decisions for them and their family and at the end of the day it has nothing to do with anybody else. Other people are always going to have something to say but at the end of the day it’s down to what you believe is right for your family.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this. I strongly feel that no matter what our situations we should NOT BE JUDGING EACH OTHER. If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that, for you never know what is really going on in someone’s situation, their struggles and so on – every mother, baby and family is different and everyone just needs to do right by them and butt out of everyone else’s business! #thetruthabout

  15. This is a great post. I think judging other parents come from a place of insecurity. There are so many, many ways to mess things up on a daily basis that I think it’s easy to cling to an idea of well.. I do X so that means I must be a good parent. That being said, I don’t feel so understanding about it when someone says something judgy to me!

  16. If you’re healthy and relatively sane, well done. If your children are walking, talking, progressing, well done. Every new mother has an idealistic version of what life is going to look like. Someone up there laughed at my plans and everything went out the window in the fight for my daughter’s survival. I got lots of advice, veiled criticism, direct jabs….it never failed to shock me that these always came at moments when I was at my lowest. I will never understand why we do this to each other. Excellent post.

  17. There is only one thing I judge harshly – and that’s someone judging someone else’s choices. They may not be OUR choices, and that’s fine; ultimately as long as those choices don’t impact me or my children or anyone outside of themselves, then why should I judge or even care?? Great post Caroline, and thanks so much for linking to #AllAboutYou

  18. I think the amount of judging that goes on is appalling. As long as we’re all doing our very best, it’s really no-one else’s business how babies are fed, etc. As you’ve said, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. It’s ridiculous, we should be supporting each other through motherhood, not judging one and another. Fab post hon xxx

  19. Great post. I can completely relate to what you’re writing. We should support each other instead of judging. We all know there are times parenting can be a difficult thing to do. We all make the best decisions we can.

  20. I agree with all of this. I feel judged by other parents all the time and I don’t understand why we can’t all be a bit more supportive of each other. Elsa wouldn’t breastfeed even after seeing specialists so I had no choice but to bottle feed in the end, and whilst I managed to express for the first couple of months I just couldn’t keep up with her and eventually we switched to formula. I used to feel terrible getting the bottle out and feeding her in public but at the end of the day we do what we have to do to have happy children. She will not sleep through the night in her bed and as absolutely adamant as I was in the beginning that she would not be getting in with me, I’m at the point now where I just want her to sleep wherever she is comfortable. If people want to judge me then fine, I don’t really care!!

    Once I saw a carer (NOT the mother) smack a child in the library though and I absolutely judged her. I will always judge the parents that are neglectful or abusive, but never the ones who are trying their best and muddling along!!

  21. I couldn’t agree more with this post! The list could go on, there are so many contentious topics! The C-section one is particularly fuelled with emotion (I have recently posted about that, too, and being judged for having had one). Funnily enough, I have made the same decisions on all your points for very similar reasons. Like you say, there are so many judgmental and competitive Mums out there, and it’s awful. Where is the sisterhood? Where is everyone’s right to do what they think is best? I think the majority of us Mums do what we do for the good of our children, and not all choices are easy, and yes, some are a little bit selfish, because at the end of the day, we are all still individuals and need to functions as such, too. That doesn’t make us bad mothers at all, just normal! #sharewithme

  22. Hell no! We’re all doing the best we can for our child in our particular situation. It’s such a shame that some have nothing better to do than to tell others they’re doing it wrong and make them feel bad. If you’re a bad mother, then so am I and so are many other mothers reading this! #sharewithme

  23. Such a good post! I think we all know that guilty feeling, even when we know that the decision is the best one for our family (or in that moment). Everyone is unique, so is every family. No baby, mother, parent, sibling is the same – so why do we all seek to be? We all have our own beliefs on parenting, but judging others is no good for anyone. You are doing a great job with your kids x

  24. The Mother says – I couldn’t agree with you more Caroline. It’s almost like everybody is an expert on your child. The biggest thing for me was breastfeeding. I was never going to breastfeed and when I told people this, you’d have thought that I’d told them that I intended to starve my child (this is me being polite!). It did upset me at first but I look at Lucas now, and apart from the obvious, I think I’ll keep him!! This was a brilliant post and I always enjoy reading your posts xx #sharewithme

  25. Fab post, I really enjoyed reading this. I thought that as mums we were all meant to be in the same boat and support each other, regardless of the way we choose to parent our children or the decisions we make. It’s just a shame that you get those who think they are above this and know best and will judge you for doing any different. Mums need to stick together! As long as you love your children and have their best interests at heart, nobody can say you’re a bad mum! #maternitymondays x

  26. Wow, I would have thought mothers would have been the least likely to judge other mothers!
    At the end of the day, unless what you are doing is dangerous or harmful it’s no one else’s business. Personally, I think if your child is happy and healthy then whatever you are doing is working.
    Being a parent is in no way an easy job and other people making you doubt yourself is not helpful.
    You are doing a great job ignore people who judge you! #brillblogposts
    Debbie
    http://www.myrandommusings.blogspot.com

  27. I’m with you! Each to their own. I always worried about being judged by other mothers for my choices concerning my kids. I didn’t breastfeed and my oldest was very slow to do things and it was clear when I took him places that he was behind. I always felt the others were judging me…but I realise now that they probably weren’t at all. It was just me judging myself and worrying that I wasn’t doing things the right way.
    But now I feel confident and I couldn’t give two hoots what people may or may not be thinking. I know what’s best for my boys and I will do what I like. Same for us all!! We are all amazing!! xx
    #brilliantblogposts

  28. A lovely post, and one that rightly addresses the issue of judgement. It’s the one thing no one prepares you for when you have a baby. It can be hard when you’re new to it all, but as you found, trust your instint and do what feels right for you and your family. #brillblogposts

  29. I always find it amazing (read: disheartening) how much judgment there is out there from other mothers, especially when SO many of us are saying “Hey, let’s do things our own way and as long as people are happy and healthy, it’s all good.” There’s nothing wrong with different either :) #brilliantblogposts

  30. I’m with you on this, I was going to say there are no bad mothers just different ones but then I thought of the really bad ones who go on holiday leaving their kids at home alone etc. and though maybe not. Instead there are no bad parenting styles only different ones :)

  31. Awww a lovely read! I love the last bit where you say you are you and I am me. So true! We are unique in every way and we should follow where our heart leads us be it in parenting or how we choose to live our lives. We are doing so many things alike though because they just work =) #sharewithme

  32. This is such a great post, both well-written and articulate. I couldn’t agree more, we all make choices for our own reasons. I often felt guilty with both my boys that I didn’t breast feed for longer. I managed only a week with my eldest and two weeks with my youngest. Both of them lost significant weight during those weeks and we were advised by the midwife to switch to bottle. As soon as we did they put weight on and were much happier.

    Judging other parents doesn’t do anyone any good. Sooner or later you’ll have karma slap you in the face for judging. Support is what we should all offer, support and friendship. Because really, that’s what we all need the most.

    Great post. xx

  33. Such a thought-provoking post, my lovely. I agree with you 100%: all babies are different, and being a good parent is all about being flexible and adapting to them rather than trying to impose what we think is best for all children. My 4 are all so different we have done really different things with them when it came to baby wearing, sleeping, weaning, discipline. X

  34. This is so true. As a parent you want to do the best for your child, but everyone has a different view of what is best and unfortunately everyone likes to share their view. What few people appreciate is that every child is different. For some children it is better for them to be bottle fed from a young age – you can ensure that they are taking enough. Some babies are better co-sleeping. Others are fine in a bedroom on their own from 6 weeks. Baby led weaning is great for some babies but just doesn’t work for others.

    Ultimately I think that a mother knows her child best. She will do what is best for her child because that is what mothers do. We need to stop judging others and we need to stop judging ourselves. The most important thing for any baby is a mother’s love.

  35. The short answer is that absolutely none of the choices you’ve made for your family makes you a bad mother! It really is a shame that we judge each other in the ways that we do but unfortunately this will always happen. I have made some very different choices to you but I still respect the fact that YOU know your children better than I do so there is no way that I can say my way is any better. I wish more people felt this way too x x x

  36. I don’t understand why as Mums we feel like we are being judged all the time, it’s such a shame and we should all support each other. There are no right or wrong ways as long as your baby and you are happy. I breastfeed, cosleep, babywear and I get judged for doing that, I also had Ava by c section, Im doing a mix of puree and finger food, everyone is different x

  37. I think we are all unique and so our each one of our children so we do what we think is best for each one and each situation and that’s what matters most is our love and support not how we go about it. Great post hunny. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  38. One thing that stuck out to me in this post is how you question if you are a bad mother because you can’t cope with co-sleeping. I often co sleep with my toddler because he sleeps much better when in bed with me, but I question whether this makes me a bad mother?? How funny, it just shows there really is no right or wrong answer. I am a true believer in doing what is best for you and your baby/child and whatever makes the day/night go the smoothest! Parenting is not easy at the end of the day. Great post xx #brilliantblogposts

  39. Pingback: Purees vs Baby Led Weaning - Becoming a Stay at Home Mum

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