Average Mom

A friend wrote a post on balance that got me thinking. Not about balance since the best terms I’m on with balance is a quick nod as I race by to find the other extreme. But it did get me thinking about average.

Why do I enjoy setting myself up for failure? Why must I be a GREAT mom? The mom who pureed organic vegetables and made her own baby food. The mom who uses cloth diapers. Who breastfed when she hated it. Now, I didn’t do these things to MAKE A POINT. I did them because of the environment and I’m naturally cheap and I thought it was the right thing to do by my children. But as it turns out, they DID make a point. And once I realized that I started KEEPING UP. With Mama Jones.

Organic clothing. Polite children. GIFTED CHILDREN. I’m the MOST tired. The MOST loved. The LEAST appreciated.

But I’m not. Yes, my son slept like crap for his first two and a half years. Which either makes me the WORST mom. (You should’ve used all these brilliant baby books that worked for MY CHILDREN. You should’ve co-slept, You should’ve Ferberized. You should’ve NOT HAD BAD SLEEPING GENES.) Or the MOST TIRED mom. But, honestly, the second year of E’s sleep issues? My husband got up almost exclusively. Because I need my sleep. And once I wasn’t breastfeeding anymore, I’d claw an eye out to get it.

Of course, we all have gifted children. The average ones must just grow in cabbage patches and just appear in elementary school. Well, my children do seem smart to me. But are they READING? Um, sometimes they EAT books. Does that count?

I feed my kids food that fell on the floor. I would LOVE to reintroduce television to my household. I am tired and once my husband is home I have to pee A LOT. (And the iPhone/computer does, too.) When my children are whirling dervishes of noise and discontent, I turn up the music to drown them out.

I am not artsy. I need directions or at least a picture reference to do any sort of art project. I mean can you even guess which one of these is mine and which one is my son’s?

My husband and I circle around each other in the hopes that the one who flinches first will put BOTH children to bed. Our house is a disaster 9 out of 10 days. My husband loves leaving dirty diapers wherever he changes N. I love leaving my clothes wherever I changed. We couldn’t find the broom for a week. I have no idea when we changed a bed sheet. In any room.

I hate showering and have my iPhone set to remind me to bath my children. I once lost my son in a hardware store. I twice lost my daughter in my house.

I’m an average mom. I’m a below-average housekeeper. I have an above-average husband but that’s only because the standards for husbands and fathers are so freaking low.

Now leave me alone or I have to go back to ignoring my kids while I write.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

66 thoughts to “Average Mom”

  1. It did automatically fill the fields in but that is the correct address to my blog. Oh all you people that are trying to reach me, I’m here, I’m heeeeere!

    Now Alex, could we be twins separated at birth? This post made me happy, oh so happy to read.

    1. So on my end, your URL is still missing the ‘c’ in welcome and doesn’t go to your site 🙁

      And I’m so happy to hear that I have a TWIN! I’m not sure the world is ready for us though 😉

  2. I too, am a below-average housekeeper and have an above average husband, although he is a below-average housekeeper too. I have 8 month old twins both my husband and I work full time outside the home. My sister in law has a 9 month old son and since day 1 has always made me feel like I’m doing the wrong thing. I didn’t breast feed. I had TWINS! They were in the hospital for 19 & 38 days after birth. I didn’t use organic formula. THEY HAD COLIC! I HAD TO USE WHAT WORKED! I occasionally use non-organic baby food. IT WAS ON SALE! BABY FOOD COSTS ME A SMALL FORTUNE AS I’M USING DOUBLE! I use regular tap (Brita filtered) water to make formula, not fancy coconut water. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do you think after the $200 in formula, $150 in diapers & wipes, $40 in baby food, & $150 in childcare (I have great friends who work for cheap) I can afford coconut water?!

    Take heart, Alex. There are lots of us average moms out there, and you know what? I think our kids might be happier for all our failures at over-achieving. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

    1. My husband is also a below-average housekeeper. When we married, he was above-average. But you know what the say about one bad apple…

      Happy kids. And once I accept my average mom-ness? HAPPY MOM!

  3. I always say that I am Partially-Proficient Mommy; definitely a C- on most days. Glad I’m in good company.

    I let first-born (colicky little turd) sleep in her baby swing for the first 5 months of her life. I’m lucky she ever learned to hold her dang head up. I’m also a breastfeeding quitter…still waiting for LLL to show up on my door and beat me with breast pumps.

  4. Brilliant! So glad to find a fellow Mom who BF and admits to hating it, because I really did even though my daughter was a champion at it, I loathed the fact that it made me feel so completely and utterly shackled to her (she refused to ever take a bottle, no matter what was in it).

    I think as new Mothers we all think we have to be perfect and this is what often I now believe leads to so many of us heading down the path to unhappiness, with our performance, ourselves and life in general. There is no such thing as perfection in Mommyland, we are humans dealing with other humans and the goalposts are constantly changing, what works one week doesn’t work the next, what works for one child doesn’t for another etc etc etc. I also don’t believe it is possible to find real balance in life when you have very young children – they are your priority and focus. But it is important to give yourself a break, a pat on the back and some time out.

    1. The shackled part was my hardest too. I’m not the touchy-feely type and BF-ing? pretty much demanded it. {chills}

      I also have been told over and over that you cannot find real balance with young children. but i keep banging my head against that wall? im a little slow on this lesson I think. thanks for the reminder

  5. You clearly are a terrible mom.

    The NEW great mom doesn’t even use diapers. She responds to her little one’s communications and puts him on the potty. When they can’t even hold their heads up.

    And I’ll bet you even had yours in a hospital, instead of trusting your body and your baby to work it out on their own. Shame.

    Me, too. But, then, I think the NEW great mom is insane. And I often wonder how neurotic her kids are gonna be, having had their bowel and bladder habits so carefully watched for three straight years (until they developed the sphincter control to do it themselves).

    1. Oh, I think we can do this without knocking others. We practice EC with my 9 week old, and we started shortly after she was born (at home, which was amazing and totally felt right for us). We still go through tons of diapers every day, though, and I am sure her elimination habits will be just fine no matter what she wears (or not) on her bottom. But the thrill of catching a bit of pee or poop in the pot is pretty great — and ridiculous, I am totally okay with being made fun of for that one!

      We cloth diaper and breast feed for other reasons, but it doesn’t hurt that I don’t have to go to the store for supplies. Because I would totally be that mom running her baby and three year old through the store weekly, hoping the baby doesn’t soil her last diaper before we can grab a fresh pack.

      Despite how much I have thought about baking with my preschooler, I can probably count the number of times we’ve done it on one hand. And art projects? I haven’t the creativity or follow-through on that, though I do have regrets when I see the cool things other parents are doing.

      My house was last cleaned about 2.5 months ago (nesting, don’t ask how long it had been before that) and that will have to do for the next three years or so.

      There is plenty more room for my shortcomings against the “perfect mom” ideal, but I am too spacey right now to even think of them.

      1. Still, I have to ask: WHY?

        I homeschooled only out of total necessity. If you had asked me a year, even a week before we started if I would ever consider it, I would have laughed.

        The house cleaning and the art projects can wait. They are unnecessary stressors in the life of a stressed out mom.

        Catching baby poop? There’s a big, unnecessary stressor. Why put yourself through that?

        1. If your question is in earnest:

          Ever done that diaper change where the baby peed in the diaper immediately, and then pooped in the second diaper, and you were on to diaper 3 in a matter of two minutes?

          I read about EC when I was pregnant with my first and was like, those people are CRAZY. I think I might have tried once or twice and was all UNNECESSARY STRESSOR and left it alone without a single regret. Second time around, a lot of the other stuff is easier, and I’d also watched some of my friends do part-time EC with their kids so I had some live role models. I figured I’d give it a try, not be all-or-nothing about it, and see whether it was something I wanted to keep up with.

          There are some clear signals, like when she is squirming in the morning and I know she really needs to poop. I almost think she’s waiting for me to get the damn pot out already, I don’t want to do this in my diaper. Or sometimes we’ll just give it a try, like if I’m doing a diaper change already and I’m in a family restroom with lots of room to move.

          It is totally stress-free because she’s in diapers and I’m not making it a big deal to always catch it. Like I said, we use a lot of diapers. Some benefits: I’ve heard that it can help with potty learning: sometimes earlier, and they have a more concrete idea about the control of their bowels (my 3yo, who started wearing underwear a month before her last birthday, still has occasional trouble with control some 6 months later). It’s easier to wipe a butt that’s not smeared with baby poop from a diaper. It sometimes saves a diaper change or two. Also, after a catch the baby will look up at me with the sweetest smile and it is a total bonding moment (makes up for the remarkably frequent moments I actually forget that she exists, like when I am doing something and she is napping in another room).

          It’s not something everyone needs to do, and the tone of book I read about it totally turned me off (naked baby, at home all the time, totally in tune with every elimination signal), but I found the practice not hard to incorporate into my life. My friend makes a personal goal of one pee a day, I sometimes go a few days without even trying. But both my husband and I come back to it, it just happens to work for us. And yeah, I agree — if something is stressful and not necessary to survival, don’t do it.

          I hope that novel clarified for you that I’m not totally insane, and that if my kids are neurotic it will be for other reasons that this.

          1. I was about to put my fourteen month old into the bath and she clearly was about to poop. So after running around in circles with a naked about-to-poop baby, I decided to put her on the toilet. It was DEFINITELY easier to clean. And I was kinda proud of my semi-quick thinking.
            And although I don’t have the speed or gumption to do it on a regular basis. I’m glad it works for you!
            And I’m glad that your kids will still be neurotic though. I wouldn’t want them to miss out on that 😉

    2. I DID have my kids in a hospital. {gasp} And a midwife. {gasp}

      Because I read the research, but I’d seen all the stuff that goes wrong. So I got the midwife for the best possible birth outcome and the hospital for the worst possible birth outcome. And my son’s birth had a little bit of both. High five me!

      1. A perfect solution to the age old problem. It’s not worth the risk to deliver at home (anyone who’s been reading my history series should have that one pounded home by now), but it is nice to have less instrumentation and bells and beeps.

        After my first one scooted out in an hour (don’t hate me, please), I knew I had a proven pelvis, and that the biggest childbirth risk I had was that I’d deliver in a taxi on the way to the hospital. But I had spent too many years seeing the problems that newborns could have to even consider taking that risk. I had my kids induced, a week early, in a hospital with a level 4 nursery. Paranoia, they say, comes from knowing everything.

  6. My kitchen floor desperately needs mopping and you see where I am…while I wait till it’s time to pick up my “gifted genius”…..from Summer School…. because she took her summer vacation during her 2cd semester.
    I tried to be perfect mom when I was young and new at it and it was an epic *fail*. I was way happier when I dropped out of competion and just let things be.
    It sounds like you are doing just fine to me.

  7. OK, not sure what this says about me, but this post made me tingly with happiness
    Happy to not be the ONLY Mum (I’m Australian, so it’s Mum not Mom) out there like this
    I still struggle with the balance. I’m pretty sure it’s out of reach.
    I too have an awesome husband, who cleans, cooks, you name it. I’m pretty sure it’s ’cause he gets tired of waiting for me to do it
    But here’s the thing, my kids are happy. Sometimes they’re overdue for a bath – but they’re happy. Our house looks like shit – but they’re happy.
    Hopefully they won’t grow into serial killers and blame it on their messy house and less than average mother
    Oh well!

  8. I read something once while I was pregnant that really stuck with me. A child will not remember how clean your house was but they will remember how much time you spent with them.

    Your blog has helped me feel like a “normal” mom and not below-average. I HATED, HATED!!!!! (wish I could use bigger font) BF but did it because I thought it was best for my daughter. Did I mention I hated it? I felt like a bad mom for hating it until I read that you hated it too and it made me feel normal. Hated it.

    I also need my sleep and swear my daughter knew exactly the moment I went into deep sleep because that was always the time she’d wake up in the middle of the night 🙂

    There’s no such thing as a perfect mom when we compare ourselves to others but nevertheless we’re perfect in the eyes of our kids…. well at least maybe until they become teenagers and then we’re all screwed.

    Thanks for being so honest! (BTW I just washed our Christmas towels! Eeeek!)

    1. I’m so glad that my blog made you feel normal. Because you are so not a bad mama. But I even read your comment to my sister because I was so happy (and amazed that I could be helpful) — plus the line about looking for a bigger font was hilarious.

      I am constantly amazed at how perfect I am to my kids. It’s a good reminder of what you wrote — that spending time with them is more important than Christmas towels. (Although an impressive length of time not to wash them. I like to just keep our Christmas lights on the bushes until we have to trim them. Six months later. You and I need to start celebrating Christmas in July.)

  9. I knew I loved you for some reason! You are my kind of mom! Thank you for leading the way for all of us average moms!

  10. Another AWESOME post, Alex!
    I am definitely an average mom. And I don’t try to be much more. I gave up breastfeeding after only two weeks. I don’t wash the floors, change sheets, or scrub the tub nearly as often as I should. I love the idea of setting a reminder for my kids’ bathtime. I have also lost one of my kids in a hardware store.
    Average works in our house. I also think it helps keep some sort of balance. Who cares if the dishes are piling up, they have too much computer time, or they eat chicken nuggets (again) for supper? At least they’re happy!

  11. Great post. I too am an average Mom. Most days I go to bed thinking “tomorrow we’ll do _____” You know something wonderfully creative and engaging that doesnt involve the tv or video games where the kids are dressed nice and their heads are thrown back laughing and the Mom is smiling and wearing actual matching jewelry. I’ve only seen it in magazines. I wake up in the morning and I’ve lost all motivation for this moment once the fighting and eye scratching begins. Most of my friends are WAY above average. It’s nice to look around and compare my dirty house and fighting children with other middle road moms out there. Thanks!

    1. My friends seem to outshine me too. Especially on the creative art projects and motivation to like GO PLACES.

      I haven’t even worn makeup and this week I completely lost track of when I showered. So I showered this morning just to be safe. And I hope to bath my kids in the evening. Can you remind me?

  12. I used to feel that way when I was a first time mom. Then after kid # 2 it wasnt as big of a deal. Now that my kids are older I dont care. I think I must of done something right cause they are still good kids.

  13. Like many of the previous commenters, this post about your “shortcomings” as a mom made me feel so good — what kind of person does that make me?!

    No, seriously, thank you for reminding us all that it’s okay to not do everything perfectly. I work full time (off summers), gave up breastfeeding way, way too soon (as in by the time we left the hospital), and am very much a below-average housekeeper (working on that, though), so I’ve had a lot of guilt the 18 months I’ve been a mom. But from my own experience, I’ve learned to live with no regrets and take everything as a learning experience. In many ways, it’s all made me a better person and more appreciative of all the good I’ve given my daughter (which, as usual, far outweighs all the bad.).

    1. I’m glad it made you feel good! I hate being alone. And if we weren’t average moms already using up all our motivation on our children, we could start a club!

      PS. Yes, all the love FAR outweigh the messy house and lack of bathing.

  14. I don’t thing there is a perfection in motherhood. But I’m with you about the house and shower. Sometimes, my husband says, “But, we’re Americans, we shower daily.” Um. Not all of us.

    There are other things I fail at miserably daily. Mostly living up to my expectations.

    1. Okay the “but we’re Americans” line is HILARIOUS. Is he trying to get y’all to have high blood pressure and diabetes too?

      And yes, the expectations that I imagine everyone has for me or I have for myself are the ones that bite me in the butt.

  15. We might live int he same house. Why must our husbands leave dirty diapers all over the place (even the kitchen!), when there is such thing as a DIAPER PAIL. WITH A LID.
    This is how you feel today but it is not a reality, You are a kick-ass mother.

    1. Wouldn’t it be shocking if my house was so messy that you DID live there and I just haven’t found you and your family yet? Reality TV here we come! It’s like a mix between Hoarders and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.

      And thanks for thinking I kick butt. XOXO

  16. Oh how I love this post. You’re so lucky to have found a guy who is ok with your less than stellar housekeeping skills. Mine makes a point of making me feel awful when the house is a disaster. He doesn’t get it. And the showering thing? I love that it’s summer and I go swimming which makes it LOOK like I took a shower. And it’s more fun.

    You’re so real. So honest. So frickin funny. Great post and you must know, you’re an amazing mom!

    1. Thanks!!

      And you need to leave that man in charge of the house and the kids for a weekend (or two — sometimes the first weekend goes TOO SMOOTH) and as you’re leaving say: Make sure the house is picked up, my dear. And don’t forget to shower!

  17. What an amazing post! I too tried to be great at everything, and the funny thing is-I was an excellent stay home mom. But, liife likes to throw you curve balls . When you’re really good at something, the universe seems to think it’s time to try something new. I SUCK at being a working single mom. I mean S-U-C-K! I went from having a Martha Stewart home where homemade cookies were almost always fresh out of the oven and children were perfectly behaved to being lucky if we eat vegetables in a week and all three of us in therapy with more being paid to the lawyer than rent for the year. Life is gonna be the way that life is gonna be.

    And….I love the comment about the bar being low for husbands. So true.

    1. Maybe the Universe just felt bad for the rest of us SAHMs with all your homemade cookies! Although I imagine that today, you are just average like the rest of us. Or maybe I would be an AWESOME single working mom instead of an average SAHM.

      PS. Joking aside, paying the lawyer more than the rent does suck.

  18. The thing is, I actually like cleaning my house. It’s just that after chasing 3 kids, it all seems kind of pointless. It’s just going to get messy/dirty again in 5 minutes anyway.

    “I am tired and once my husband is home I have to pee A LOT.” ME TOO. And then my husband comes knocking on the door to ask if everything’s alright because I’ve been in the bathroom for so long. Nope, not doing anything, just basking in the privacy.

    1. I’m going to start taking pictures of the house when it’s clean. I’ll blow them up and frame them in each room so people can see what it WOULD look like without kids. And never pick up another toy again. Or invite you over to “enjoy cleaning” (I’ll look for you in the bathroom)

  19. Who ever defined their loved ones by the ability to be great at absolfrigginlutely EVERYTHING?

    What stands out about the people you love to be with inyour life? they’re awesome to be around? they make a mean cup of coffee? they introduced you to the best restaurant ever? they know exactly how to cheer you up when you need it? they’re unspeakably comforting? encouraging?

    Maybe they’ve got a handful of amazing skills, but if we were all the best of the best at everything… well we’d be boring…we’d be the same, or more likely, we’d all be FULL OF IT.

    I know I don’t remember how clean my house was when I was one or two or four or twelve… I remember random fun days, places, cozy comforting spots and people, and amazing LITTLE TIDBITS about the people I love. I don’t know a single person who has all aspects of their lives together all the time.

    Thank God your kids and their spouses won’t feel they have to live up to a Martha Stewart mom standard! But hey, they may have a great example of parents who love each other, a mom who made them laugh and who wasn’t afraid to express herself, a family who didn’t mind admitting their shortcomings and working together to fill in the gaps.

    Honestly, I’m tired of parental facades about everyone having their shit together 24 hours a day. Give it up people. Celebrate the good things you’ve got going, quit beating yourself up about the rest… some days are better than others, but hey, you’re LOVING your kids whether you’ve grown your own organic spelt and whipped up a sugar-free loaf of bread to have with your homemade cheese OR serving up a wheat thin and cheddar when they’re running around in their disposable diaper…and nothing else : )

    Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’ve got to go take my potty trained one year old to the bathroom and prepare his (2nd grade reading level) lesson plan for tomorrow…in German.

    Or wait… I’m going to go cuddle my already-asleep hubby in bed and listen to the sweet sound of a whole house snoring. and smile. And maybe I’ll clean the counterful of dishes and the dinner-covered clothes tomorrow.

    peace, momma.

  20. oh how i love this post. i too hate showering, it gets you wet and then you have to dry off. and choose an outfit (or pick up the jammies you just took off before the shower and put them back on). and do something with your hair so it doesn’t poof out. no thanks.

    i completely heart being average.

    1. that is EXACTLY why I hate showering too! although i can’t put the same clothing back on after showering. It’s a weird EVERYTHING HAS TO BE CLEAN NOW thing.

      Average is just so SPIRING (not inspiring because heck we’re run-of-the-mill and not perspiring because we aren’t really doing that much). YAY!

  21. Oh,I totally see myself that way in a few years 😀 And it’s rather comforting to know that I wouldn’t be the only one.Also,average is GOOD-it gives you mobility-to move either ways 😉

  22. Thanks for the nod Alex, and even more importantly for continuing the conversation over here. Cause, girlfriend, this is real life and we don’t tell it like it is often enough. Before kids I struggled with average, aspired to some ridiculous notion of perfection and now wonder what the point was. Now I’m embracing average, but mostly in favour of me. If I don’t let something go I know I’ll lose myself. But the pressure to be perfect for my kids. It’s crazy! Why do we do that to each other?

    1. I don’t know. The pressure is so intense. Like if I snap ONCE, after five days of being calm and chill in the face of tantrums and no sleep, it’s one more YEAR of therapy for my kids.

      Writing this post was scary but such a relief too. I’m surprised how not alone I am though. It’s very cool to be wrong about that.

      1. Well, if it makes you feel better, my therapist told me that no matter what we do, out kids are going to end up in therapy. Took the pressure off.

        And yes. I have a therapist. Two actually. Hey! I live in California. It’s practically legally required.

  23. In response to a heated debate on one of my moms forums, an exasperated mommy finally said, “Look. We’re raising kids, not resumes.”

    It’s become my Mommy Motto.

    It’s so hard when everyone around you is a Stepford wife – complete with perfect post-partum bikini body – but every now and then I try to give myself a reality check. Perfection is so boring. I figure as long as I shovel out the mess every now and again, hide veggies in the Kraft mac and cheese, pretend that I’m going to limit TV, keep most choking hazards away from Elizabeth* and play video games WITH my children, we’re all okay.

    *Impossible now that Joseph’s into Legos.

    1. Perfection IS boring. But I hear you on the postpartum body. I almost DIED when multiple friends and blogs mentioned fitting in their regular pants 6-12 weeks out while I squirmed in my maternity pants… with a four month old on my lap.

      I love your mommy motto.

      1. Even worse? My baby sister rocked a white bikini when she took her son to Mommy and Me when he was SIX MONTH OLD. How?! We share the same genes, for God’s sake.

  24. Yay to average moms! That’s how I feel on most days – I try and try and often I feel there’s so much more I could be doing, but instead of constantly feeling like I’ll never measure up to “those moms” out there (are they real?) I just stop beating myself up over it. I let go of this ridiculous ideal and you know what? My kid is fine, even great, in spite of my less than stellarness (too tired to think of the real word here), and maybe because of it.

    The fact that you gave up so much of your own life and ambitions to stay home with your kids already says that your head is in the right place for them, and you’re doing all you can. If that doesn’t say you’re an amazingly dedicated mom, I’m not sure what will.

  25. Ah. Sounds so familiar. Look honey, all us La Leche League leaders used to console ourselves by saying, do we want them to put SHE WAS A GREAT HOUSEKEEPER on our tombstones. Maybe you need less email. Yeah. That’s it. I gotta go find my vacuum cleaner and remember how to run it…..
    Love, Marge

  26. Damn, you little granola! Ha ha! My kids were 4 & 7 when I got them, and I now believe God did that for a reason, not just to rob me of the opportunity to lose sleep & feel guilty over all the proper things I didn’t do. I can already tell you are an exemplary Mom.

    These are the things I always wanted for my boys: for them to have humility, hope and gratitude, and the ability to think critically. They are 16 & 19, and I feel tons of gratitude for them. They appear to be well on their way. I feel incredibly blessed.

    Also, a woman told me this, which was told to her by her wise friend:

    Don’t ever judge yourself as a parent until your children reach the age of 30.

  27. I needed this. My husband is also an “above-average husband but that’s only because the standards for husbands and fathers are so freaking low.” I work full-time as a corporate lawyer (crappy long hours) and walk into the door at 730 (on a good night) or 900 (on a not so bad night) to find diapers wherever, a kitchen that needs to be cleaned and a 2 year old and 4 year old that should be in bed. The house is a wreck except on Fridays when our housekeeper comes, and it is a struggle to not yell at the above-average husband about the diapers, the kitchen and the children who need to go to bed on time. I hate the constant mess, but I love my family. I need all these reminders that I don’t need perfection.

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