Running Our Races & Becoming Winners

As a woman and a mother I struggle with the nagging voice that asks, “Should you really be devoting so much time to writing?” As I shared in a recent blog post, the demands of published author life have escalated over the past months so that my writing career has now turned into a very full time job.

And of course, with the new demands, not only have I had to adjust, but my family has had to as well. Thankfully, my husband is incredibly supportive of my writing endeavors. And for the most part, my children are accepting of this new aspect of my life too.

But every once in a while, one of them asks, “So when you finish the third book of your contract, does that mean you’re done?”

Then that nagging voice slithers back and whispers in my ear, “Are you really doing the right thing? Should you spend so much effort on a writing career when you could use that energy on being a better mom?”

I watched the movie Secretariat last week which is based on the true story of a race horse and the woman who believed enough in her horse to help him become a Triple Crown winner.

The heroine, Mrs. Tweedy, was an ordinary housewife. Her inner struggle, struck a chord within me. At the beginning of the movie, she centers all of her time and energy on her family and had pushed aside her love of horses. When a death in the family forces her to return to her childhood home—a horse-breeding farm—she is put in a situation where she has to deal with horses once again.

Mrs. Tweedy’s passion for horses and her gift in relating with them is re-ignited. She begins to devote more time to the horse farm. In order to do that, she has to spend time away from her family. She’s forced to make hard choices and sacrifices in order to pursue her renewed passion. But she also realizes and says, “This was the work I was meant to do.”

It’s not always easy for her family. They question her decisions and sometimes even resent what she’s doing. But in the end, when they see her running hard after her dreams, persevering in the face of hardships, and fighting for what she loves, they learn to be proud of her.

Even though Secretariat was set in the 1960’s and 70’s, when expectations and roles of women were different, women today still face that “nagging voice.” If we pursue something we love, if we embrace our gifting, and if we devote time and energy to our passion, we often feel guilty.

Somehow we have the idea that a “good” mom, wife, or woman must deny her own gifts, talents, and passions for the greater benefit of her family. We fall into the trap of thinking that if we don’t devote one hundred percent to them, they’ll suffer, that if we’re not there for every activity, moment, or need, we’re depriving them.

And while I’m sure there are plenty of situations where parents are absent either physically or emotionally from families, most of us truly strive to do what’s best for our loved ones. It’s because we care so much about them, that we struggle with the tug and pull of pursuing our talents and abilities with the desire to fulfill our roles as mothers, wives, and women.

I’m not sure that the tug and pull will ever go away. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up being a good mom anymore than it means I have to give up being a good writer. The passions aren’t mutually exclusive.

Yes, pursuing both will require dedication, sacrifice, and hard choices, the same that it did for Mrs. Tweedy. But when we “run our races,” when we pursue our passions, we give our families the opportunity to become more independent, to handle more responsibility, and to have strength in the face of stresses and challenges.

Most importantly, through our example, we pass on the vision that they can run their own races. We give them the courage to use their unique gifts and abilities. And we model for them the hard work, dedication, perseverance, and passion required for the race.

Winning isn't so much about publication and best seller lists as it is about how we run our races. When we run (or write or whatever it is) to the best of our abilities and teach our loved-ones to do the same, then no matter the outcome, we can stand with confidence and declare ourselves “winners” just like Mrs. Tweedy did.

“This is about life being ahead of you, and you run at it.” (Mrs. Tweedy from Secretariat)

What about you? Have you ever wondered if you should devote so much time to your writing? Have you ever heard the nagging voice of guilt telling you that you shouldn’t be running your race? How do you combat the guilt?


  1. Ah, yes! I know that nagging voice well. I'm thankful for our supportive hubbies, Jody. And I think you are so right - we're setting an example for our little ones. It's hard though because Brogan doesn't really get my example yet. The easier thing for me - he won't know me as any different.

  2. I think a little guilt is just part of being a mom - even if it's about your kid crying because you closed the bathroom door :) I'm constantly learning what the right balance is.

  3. I think we can be great moms and writers. However, when my kids were playing charades and my daughter started moving her hands in the air and my son who is six said, "Mommy on her laptop ALL day long!" I knew I might be out of balance. (Especially since she was playing the piano and NOT pretending to be me!)

  4. Goodmorning gals!

    Jessica, you bring up a good point which is another blog post in and of itself! Balance! There are seasons when I'm busier and my kids are learning to accept that. But you're right. Our families need to seeing us working hard, but also know that they're important, that we're willing to sacrifice for them too!

  5. This is a great post, and such an important message.

    My parents sacrificed a lot for my sister and I. They worked jobs they hated for years and always made sure that we never wanted for anything. About ten years ago, though, when I started college, they started getting involved in activities they really love. They both changed careers and are so much happier for it. I love seeing them like that and I'm glad that they've made those changes.

    I'd like to hope that, in the long run, every child would rather their parents did something they love, even if that meant giving up certain things in the short-term.

    I'm lucky because my wife and I firstly have very similar interests so we almost never have to work out how to balance the time we spend together. We do nearly everything together. She's also fully supportive of my writing and the work I have to do.

  6. I should also mention we're expecting our first baby at the end of June, and we have already discussed how to juggle my writing with the needs of the baby. It's going to be a balancing act, but if we work together I know we can manage it.

  7. It's quite good timing that you post this article! I'm pushing through to the end on my first WIP and it's taking an inordinant amount of schedule juggling and lack of sleep to complete. I've felt a lot of guilt at telling my 3yo, "Not right now, honey. I have to work." Ugghh. So thank you for the encouragement!

  8. Jody, thanks for the timely and honest post. Remember the Proverbs 31 "virtuous woman" took care of her family and ran a business. One could also say she took care of her family by running her business. Don't stop writing until God tells you it's over.

  9. Whew! I'm not alone. Not that I thought I was the only one struggling with kids, time and balance, but...well, I do. And this last year I added even more to my plate by going back to school. In a way, my family all agrees that it's been a good thing. And I rarely hear complaints about homework (or rather they understand how little sympathy they get in return). One daughter sees my struggle so well that she has made a goal for herself to push through college quickly so she won't have to go back late like her mother. :) It's been a wonderful experience though as I learn to budget my time. I'm forced to use every moment and plan for it--even leisure time. I actually find I enjoy my free time more when I carve out specific time for it. Because I know it's mine. The nice thing about this semester is my writing classes which give me a great excuse to sit at the computer. It's homework!! :) The kids love reading my assignments though, so I haven't noticed too much complaining. Sharing our talents with our family is a great way to involve them and give value to what we're doing. When I don't isolate my work from them, they don't feel isolated from me. And they love giving me ideas to use. Thanks for a great post! As always.

  10. Paul, Congrats on expecting your first child!! Thanks for sharing the story of your parents. That's really inspiring!! And what a tremendous example for you.

    And Carrie, Thanks for sharing your story. I think you raise an incredibly important aspect. And it's something I do as well (and one that Mrs. Tweedy in Secretariat did). Involve our families in our "races" as much as we can! When they're invested, then they're more accepting.

  11. Too often, massive cash return is the yardstick by which success is measured. I haven't yet reached that level of success, however, the rewards are wonderful on a personal level. As someone with a habit of moving from one hobby to another, it's quite an achievement to have completed several novels.

    For me, publication is proof that my definition of success is possible with hard work and stick-to-it-iveness. My family also look at my success as theirs, so I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

    Yes, I question spending so much time at the keyboard, but hey, I never told anybody I was perfect and I'm trying to balance family and writing as best as possible. Knowing that they also know this is good enough for me.

    Good post. It made me think.

  12. It is so hard to find a balance. I work full time and feel like writing is a part time job on top of that.
    Like someone else mentioned, my parents worked jobs (sometimes two or three at time) they didn't love to pay the bills. When I was getting ready to leave for college, my mother and I were discussing my future and my mom said. "Well, you are talking to someone who waited until she was 40 to start her life."

    I never want to be that person. Especially since it only gave her and my Dad less than 10 years together to enjoy it.

    Recently, I saw an interview with Nora Roberts. They asked her how she balanced her insanely popular career with family life. Excuse my paraphrasing, but she said something like, "It is a juggling act and you are juggling two kinds of balls. Some are glass and some are rubber. If you drop the glass ones, they shatter. But if you drop the rubber, they can bounce back."

    Then she made the important point that the balls can change. What was glass yesterday, maybe rubber today and vice versa. Like if is the kid's state championship game, you don't miss that. But if is the kid's 112th random game and you are on a deadline, it might be okay to skip.

  13. "It's HOW we run our races" YES, indeed! And, hopefully it's with grace, patience and time with family. And, also doing what we love - writing! Thanks for this, Jody~

  14. Hmmm. But what if that "nagging voice" is really the voice of the Holy Spirit, urging you to take a closer look at your quickly-growing children? What if our purpose here on earth is not to pursue our loves, embrace our giftings, and devote time and energy to our passions, but rather to embrace and obey God's blueprint for our lives? And where do we find His perfect design for wives and mothers? Do we look to Hollywood or to our culture to define that for us? Or do we look to God's Word for answers?

    Where did the message that we as women could both pour out our lives into being our husband's helpmeet, and the primary trainer and nurturer of the next generation of godly children, while at the same time pursuing our own, independent desires, come from? Should we trust this source?

    Is it our ultimate goal to train our children to run their own races...or is there a greater race to run, as a family? What if we were meant to pool all of our gifts and strengths together, and collectively use them to further God's kingdom on earth? Might we ultimately have a greater impact that way? If not, then why did God put us in families?

    These are hard questions, and I may be stoned for them, but I think they need to be asked. We ladies have seen many competing messages come down in the last fifty years about how we're supposed to live our lives. It's time to sort through those carefully, and run them through the unchanging grid of God's word. Because at the end of the day, our lives on earth are really not about us.

    ~ Betsy

  15. It was definitely a struggle for me when my kids were small. I actually gave up writing for a while because I just did not have the time for it, and I felt I was sacrificing too much to keep going. There were other reasons, but primarily I needed to be there for my kids, and when I'm writing I'm a total space cadet, so it didn't work for me. Once they were older and in school all day, I got back into it. I never gave up on my dream, just realized it wasn't the right time for it. And when the time was right, I plunged back in. No regrets!

  16. Good Morning Jody and Fellow Writers!

    I think this is such a hard aspect of the writing life and my kids are 18 and 21. My 21 year old is special needs and there are so many issues. My hubby, like yours and others is very supportive, still when you add in a full-time counseling job, and my 86 year old mother living with us(lets hear it for the sandwiched generation!) I still have trouble managing the guilt and I'm a counselor!

    However, when the kids were growing up I made sure I went to conferences, or left town for a fun excursion leaving everyone behind. That was probably the best thing I did to show my kids that I could still follow my dreams and still come home to love them. That leaving and coming back to them was very important because they got used to it and I think it's effected both of them positively today with seeking their own dreams.

  17. Every day.

    Some days I'm better at balancing than others. Some days my family is more understanding than others. Some days I'm more productive than others.

    Things seem to go smoothest when I try NOT to multitask. Even if I only spend 10 minutes reading books or doing a craft with a child, if I devote that time to the child without answering the phone, checking my iphone, etc, we all feel fulfilled afterward.

    If turn off Twitter & Facebook when I'm writing, I (obviously) get much better results.

    It seems simple that being mindful results in quality interaction, but sometimes I need to remind myself.

  18. Oh Jody, I don't think there's a working mom alive who isn't familiar with the nagging voice of guilt. It's a juggling act, to be sure. And like you, I strive to balance it all.

    The only way I know to combat the guilt is to walk in wisdom, and that requires prayer. Lots of it.

    I agree with you that when we passionately pursue our dreams, we live out our example of what it takes--and our kids take notice. My youngest (daughter - 15) is watching me. She's seeing what a woman can do with passion, diligence, and God's grace.

  19. It's just my husband and I, so the only nagging voice is me shouting at myself to get writing, lol. We've only been married for 2.5 years and if we do have children, it won't be for a long time yet, closer to or in our thirties. So I'm greatly enjoying this time!

    I think all working moms (and dads... but mostly moms because men don't feel guilt the way women do, lucky them!) are admirable. Being a parent is a 24/7 job, and then on top of that you have another 8 hour or more job. It's a lot, and it's amazing what working mothers can do!

  20. Check out these chunky comments!

    Cheers to passing on the vision!

    I love to show the kids I'm not a quitter and that I'm willing to work hard and stay determined in pursuit of my dream. I love to help them belive in a dream. It's part of my role as a mother.

    So much I could say on this topic. It's a good one!
    ~ Wendy

  21. Jody, great post! I think as women it's very important that we not be all about our kids because it teaches them that Mom's their slave. And we then raise little boys who except their wives to do everything, like Mom did, and little girls who feel like they have to do everything for their family and deny themselves completely.

    It's definitely a balance that's not easy to find. I try to be alert for signs when my kids do need more of me, like when my daughter asks if we can go out together sometime. We don't do that often enough, but so far it's been more of a money issue.

    And this isn't something women struggle with alone. My husband works a full time job as a pastor and is able to work from home and be around the kids more than most dads. But he's also a part-time cop, and when he has to do both jobs on the same day, it's hard for him. He can feel, too, like he's working too much and neglecting the kids.

  22. I should add that when my kids fuss about dad working an extra shift, I remind them that he's doing it to take care of us and to be thankful for how hard he works.

    The same could be said for us moms who work. It's not always done just for us; it brings in income for the family too. And sometimes it's necessary that both parents do that.

    So it's a chance to make the kids look beyond themselves and see parents' work in a positive light.

  23. Wow, Jody, what an encouragement this post was to me. I don't have time to expound, but I needed to hear these words. Thank you!

  24. I think the secret is listening to God and what he's putting on your heart. Our lives go through seasons---maybe you should be writing more at some times than at others! God doesn't want you to put aside your gifts; he gave them to you for a reason. But you may have stronger calls on your life at certain times. Ask him what he thinks! I'm sure he's got an opinion. :)

  25. I have had so many well-meaning friends discourage me from writing and other intellectual pursuits, such as higher education. When unsuccessful, they hand me books like "Reforming Marriage" that insist a woman is not meant to have a career because she is only supposed to be supporting her husband in his career. These friends (and authors of the books) are well-meaning Christians, but what they tell me is extra-biblical. I know that because, thankfully, I've read the Bible.

    I liken denying my purpose in life to denying myself food. Hey, I just did it this morning. I played the mommy waitress game, in which my children were never satisfied with the food I gave them but kept wanting more, more, more (maybe they're all growing at once?). Now I'm finally sitting down to eat at almost 9:30. The point is, mothers and fathers are not their children's slaves and shouldn't be.

  26. Many people have a dream but choose not to pursue it. I waited until my days as classroom volunteer mom were over and our daughter in high school to put legs to mine. Even so, it was hard on her to see me spending so much time writing.

    I'd been at this five years before I received my first contract. Because she's seen all the time and effort I put in, she is very happy for me. She's seen that dreams can become reality if one believes in them and is willing to work long and hard.

    I like to think this lesson has helped her. She's in her second year of college now and recently changed her major. She'd been pursing a degree in something she didn't really like but could have landed her a high paying job. She gave that up in favor of studying a subject that is her passion but might not produce the same level of financial rewards. I delight to watch her joy and wonder if, just maybe, seeing me follow my dream gave her the courage to follow hers.

  27. Great post! I needed that, right as my kids are fighting w/each other while I am typing this, lol! I definitely agree w/Jessica, it's all about balance. Thanks for the post:)

  28. I have been struggling with this for many years. It seems that when I am successful with my writing, devoting time to it, something in my "real" life slips through the cracks. It's hard not to let the Super Mom mentality take over. I can't fix everything, I can't do everything and my family still is taken care of and know I love them.

  29. Hi Everyone!

    I really appreciate the sharing and baring of souls here today! This is such a sensitive topic to so many of us. And I appreciate the diversity of opinions too. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!

  30. Jody, I feel this ALL the time. Especially when my 11 year old says, "will you take a break today?" I have to remind him that books don't write themselves, and that I have a dream I'm pursuing. I hope this will teach my sons about perseverance, and I really hope I'm balancing writer and mommy duties in a way that's helpful, not harmful.

  31. I believe at this time in my life the Lord has opened the gate and given me the freedom to run after my dreams. Anything prior may not have worked so well. I say, cheers to the running years. I'm glad to be here.

  32. I constantly struggle with this. But through lots of prayer I have at times scaled back on my writing when I knew God was guiding me in another direction. And then at some point the doors open wide again and I can tackle my writing full force. For me, this is my compromise. And I think it is good for our children to see us pursuing our dreams.

  33. Jody, I didn't think I really had anything to add to this conversation because you said it all so well, but in reading through the comments I realized I did have something to say.

    I think it's important for the health of the family for everyone to have work that inspires them. My mother didn't. She was of the generation that was expected to give up her career (nursing) in order to raise a family. As a result, you could almost say she was over-invested in the minutiae of our lives. That was great when we were young, but it made it harder to develop independently as we grew older.

    I see something similar in my students. Those who have parents who do everything for them, are often the ones who get lost when they have to fend for themselves in school.

    I think you're absolutely right that balance is key, but I also think you're delivering an important message about work and dreams but also about reality and sacrifice. That's so important.

  34. Balance is really the key. When I find myself feeling guilty, which is often, I remember I'm raising three girls. I don't want them to give up who they are for their family ever. I want them to have it all. If I show them that taking care of myself and doing what I love is important too, hopefully they'll do the same when they're older.

  35. Mrs. Tweedy is my newest hero. I loved Diane lane's portrayal of her in Secretariat. I also saw parallels between a writer pursuing her dream and mrs tweedy pursuing her dream with secretariat and her father's farm. I loved that movie!!

  36. Well, if you've already succeeded in getting published in this difficult industry, then you already know the answer to this question.

  37. There will always be differing opinions about what constitutes 'balance' in our lives. And among Christian writers the differences will teeter on individual interpretations of scripture. Unlike ancient women who were overshadowed by a patriarchal society, in today’s western culture women are given the freedom to use their abilities in home and/or business.

    But, while God gives us free choice, we have to remember that it is accompanied by responsibilities. Women can choose to be homemakers, or business women, or both. Some of us can balance the responsibilities of both quite well, while others can’t, and I don’t believe anyone can tell another what to do. If we’ve sought God’s guidance about using a talent we believe he’s given us, and we continue returning to him for strength as we undertake our chosen work, I think he will help us with the balancing act.

    If, on the other hand, we desire to pursue a long-held dream without the assurance that it is indeed making use of a God-given talent, or without his blessing, we could end up overwhelmed by a life stressed and out of balance.

    The key has to be in taking the time to regularly consult with God and, Jody, I have no doubt you do that. I’ve said before that I’m convinced your writing is a special kind of ministry. Give that guilt back to the devil and let God lead you.

    (Sorry for the long lecture! Can you tell I feel strongly about the subject?

  38. I put up a ranting post about this subject awhile ago, along the same lines. I was mostly talking about feeling pressured to have more children, when I really only want the one I have. This was the kernel of it all, though, and I want to thank you for saying it so beautifully. I've had a very hard time figuring out if I keep going with my career. The conclusion you have come to is the conclusion I finally came to - we can follow our dreams and still be there for our family. In the end, it's better if we do.

  39. Our kids will gladly take 24 hours of our day if we let them!

    I used to feel guilty even before I started writing. There's always something to feel guilty about as a mother.

    We can only do our best to carve out ample writing time and ample family time. It isn't easy.

  40. Jody- This post made me tear up. I love the example from Secretariat because even though she was absent, she still taught them a great lesson in the end.

    As a fledgling writer (two completed novels and querying) I wonder if all the time is worth it. I LOVE writing and learning the business, but I struggle with the value of it if it does not help support my family financially. There is the hope.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post.

  41. Nagging voices don't just come from inside - my mother was raised to believe that home and family is a woman's be all and end all - and I find myself struggling not just against personal guilt but what she piles on me as well.

  42. Family is the driving force behind everything I put my hands to. Writing feels like its all mine- a part of me that I can keep all for myself. We all need an identity and place to express who we are.
    My family is happy to watch me flourish from my passion, and I hope one day my children will apply the same principle to their dreams!

  43. I admire any woman who can still write while taking care of a family. I am still single but find it hard to cope with a stressful full-time job and my ambitions to write.

    My family does give me a lot of grief because I run off to write every spare chance I get, but it doesn't mean that I love them any less. Writing is the one thing that helps me stay sane in this crazy world and I try my hardest everyday to remind them of that fact.

  44. Yes! I've certainly pondered this. And felt guilty. And actually quit writing for 9 years while I was a single mom.

    But I think you're right--we can also be a good example to our family and children, of working hard toward our goals, developing our skills, and doing things that make ourselves happy. It's not ALL about self-sacrifice. As long as we don't totally exclude or ignore our life relationships, we won't fall into the trap of selfishness.

  45. Oh yes, this is a struggle that I know well, and I'm sure that this post rang true to many of us. What was especially meaningful to me was your argument about passing on the vision. I'm raising two daughters and I think it's important for them to see that a woman can do what has to be done (work a full time job to put food on the table, especially when your spouse is unemployed for over 2 years) all while following your dream (writing and (hopefully!) publishing). There's a combination of practicality and vision for a different future in there that I hope they've seen. It's all about balance and keeping all the balls in the air, and while it's difficult, I think that most of us are successful most of the time. And that allows the odd dropped ball to forgiven.

  46. Thank you for this post. You spoke the absolute truth. So many women struggle with their identies when it comes to that "naggin voice". You sacrifice yourself in order to provide the best for your family. Though you love doing this for your family, one needs to remember about themselves and their needs/happiness. If I run down from exhaustion or not being happy that I can't do anything for myself, I won't be there 100% mentally in support of my family role.

  47. Bounced over from Chatting at the Sky.

    No, "The passions aren’t mutually exclusive". I like your message her.

  48. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for bouncing over! :-)

  49. I so enjoyed your post (came over from "Chatting At The Sky"). So encouraging to read such transparent thoughts on pursuing the gifts God's given you alongside motherhood/family.

    I announced a hard decision on my blog last week because I was beginning to feel the strain of trying to be everything to everyone. I'll absolutely pursue my gifts again, but decided I need a little break form the business (card and stationery design). I'd love to become better at balancing work and family together, but for now, seasons feel right for me.

    We watched Secretariat last weekend and loved it! What a woman! Though I did feel sad that she didn't have her husband's support the way you and I have our husband's full support. We are blessed!

    So glad I stopped by...

  50. Hi Linsey! Glad you stopped by too! We definitely go through seasons. I know I had a season of NOT writing. And it was really good for me. But I'm back in the season of writing and I know it's right for the time-being, even if it isn't always easy to juggle everything.

  51. If only I had the secret formula. Split my body in two perhaps? I identify with Mrs. Tweedy because she has found herself again. I felt like a shell of a person before I found myself as a writer. I look back and think that I must have been a robot to my kids.

    My passion for writing has made me feel complete. More true to myself. And for that, I have no regrets. Sure, time is already fleeting with our children before they are grown and gone, but what great role models we can be for our children! I think the key is balance and setting limits, both in our writing as well as how much we give to our families. Self-denial can fester and resentment sets in before we know what hit.

    I think it is like the weight balance. If we put too much energy on one side or the other, we feel off-kilter. With a little trial and error, I think eventually you find just the right weight (time and effort) to give to family vs. writing.

    Great thoughts, Jody!

  52. This is very much like what the book I'm currently reading is all about: "The ME Project" by Kathi Lipp (a Christian book about pursuing your God-given goals/dreams... taking the time NOW to invest in yourself and your passions).

    It's a good reminder not to feel guilty for doing something for ourselves, once in a while... and a good reminder, too, that God put these desires in our hearts (for a reason!). ;)


  53. Hi MizB! I didn't realize that's what Kathi's book is about! I'll have to pick up a copy. Thank you!

  54. After completing 2 manuscripts back in the 70's, I placed the cover on my typewriter & dreams to focus on my husband & 2 children. Don't regret it. But now, 30 years later, the publishing world is a whole new ballgame & requires even more time & energy. My word to moms: pursue your dreams but don't leave your family behind. Balance is hard, but is the key. I have a whole lot more to say about that, but not here. Oceans of blessings!

  55. Dear Jody,

    Today when I knew I needed encouragement I came here.
    After browsing and reading several wonderful posts I found this one.

    Having read your blog for 2 years I'm sure I read this before but it struck home for me tonight in a powerful way.

    It was EXACTLY what I needed to read.

    Right now I'm making plans for next year, goals and strategies to reach them, and feeling maybe, I'm spending too much time on me?

    I was falling into the trap.

    Thank you for writing this article - for taking the time to write this blog in the midst of your abundantly busy life.

    God Bless and Happy New Year.
    MaryAnna Rose


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