How did having a baby change your life?
July 22, 2008 1:12 PM   Subscribe

How did having a baby change your life? I'm intentionally leaving the question as broad as it is and would love to hear your answers, mothers and fathers; but especially in regard to how it may have changed you, as a person. My wife is expecting in 5 weeks, I feel both tremendous excitement, but also a slight anxiety as I know my life will never be the same.
posted by razzman to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a lot more tired lately.

I'm a lot more focused.

I laugh more. Really belly laugh.

I worry about different things than I used to and have quit worrying about a lot of other things.

I experience depression less. And with my history with depression, that is amazing.

Time seems to go faster.

I feel like I have a lot in common with so many more people now.

I feel really guilty for how I treated my parents when I was a toddler and teenager.

I like holidays a lot more now.
posted by jeanmari at 1:20 PM on July 22, 2008

Jonathan Coulton's song You Ruined Everything (in the Nicest Way) says it really well.
posted by cerebus19 at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2008

I expect this will be moved to MetaTalk.

The first two weeks are a weird combination of heaven and hell. I was so excited and happy and bewildered, and so completely exhausted (essentially it's 2 weeks of 2-4 hours of sleep a day). The next few months are a great experience, still very little sleep but each new step in development that the baby makes brings out fantastic emotions.

As far as changing me, it completely altered my sense of priorities, I used to be all "Life is supposed to be fun, enjoy it while you can", and now I think about responsibility towards my family first, fun second (combining the two is great though, spending time as a family in a fun-filled activity is extremely rewarding).

Oh, and congratulations!!
posted by Vindaloo at 1:24 PM on July 22, 2008

My kid just turned two. I think she's hilarious. I laugh with her all the time.

I know everyone's experiences differ, but so far, my daughter is the only person that I never get tired of being with. Most days are fun, and even when she's grumpy and fussy I still love being around her. I guess it's a cliche, but it's a different sort of love than anything I've ever experienced. She's a delight. I'm a pretty big introvert, so days/weeks away from my wife or friends never bothered me. But a couple days without Aletheia and I really start to miss her.

For a more pragmatic answer--there's not much in the way of leisure time without her. Unless we get a baby-sitter, anything we do we need to be able to do with the kid in tow. Sometimes my wife and I just take turns going to see a movie and then talking about it so we can get a little time away. But if you work in some breaks (or have family/friends to take the kid for a while) that's no huge burden.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am constantly stressed. Often depressed. Your life really is not your own anymore. You basically live for a new human being......but, I wouldnt trade it for anything in the world.... (father with 10 month old daughter)
posted by TwilightKid at 1:28 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

First off, congratulations!

I've been a parent 9 weeks as of today.

Probably the biggest difference is that everything becomes a bit more of a production. If my wife and I go anywhere in public, one of us is designated as the person to take the baby outside if he starts crying too much. Trips to pick up food or shop went from taking 20 minutes to an hour, because he may need to be fed before we go in or just after we get out.

We had to move because our current profoundly cheap apartment was held together by peeling lead paint.

Going out to movies has been nearly impossible, at least until he starts taking a bottle more (though one of you could go, I suppose).

Baby Snuggli's are a great way to hide a pot belly if you normally feel fat.

It's also changing my career direction, I'm going from being a marketing associate/web developer to a full time dad (in a few weeks).

Despite these changes, it's been awesome. I've probably never smiled as broadly as when little P fell asleep on my chest with his arms out in a little baby hug.
posted by drezdn at 1:30 PM on July 22, 2008


With the birth of each of my kids (but especially with the first) I fell completely and totally head over heals with my husband..again.

All the sayings like "you will never love anything as much" "you would jump in front of a train..." are absolutely true.

Nap time gains a huge significance. Family nap time is time to cherish.

On preview...drezdn has a good point...everything is a production. It gets worse the more kids you have. We have 2 (2.5yrs and 1) and one on the way. I don't know what we're going to do once we're outnumbered :)

Oh, and we spend a lot A LOT of time talking about poo, pee, and snot.

Congrats again.
posted by Abbril at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2008

I'm the dad of a 5-year old with special needs and a 16 month old. I feel like I'm always struggling to keep up in some way or another, but holy cow am I really enjoying just playing again - sometimes with toys, sometimes without, making up the "rules" as we go. It has also made me startlingly more aware of my emotions and how they affect those around me.
posted by plinth at 1:35 PM on July 22, 2008

You will learn what "worry" really is. Especially as they get older and venture out on their own. In your car.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:57 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

but especially in regard to how it may have changed you, as a person

The most important thing to know: you'll be just the same person, but with a child.

Congratulations, and enjoy it! Just about all of us do.
posted by escabeche at 2:04 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Time will go really, really, fast. Also, if pop culture is something that was ever "important" to you, you will shed that like an old skin. Important gets redefined.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:11 PM on July 22, 2008

I don't think the first kid really changed our life that much in the early years. We still went out to dinner, hung out with the same friends (most of whom were making their first baby around the same time, etc.) At my son's first birthday party (which he mostly slept through!) we had about 30 guests and drained a keg. Life continued, we just brought him along. It probably helped that he was the model baby that slept all night from 8 weeks on, was never sick, etc. If anything, the drastic changes we were expecting didn't happen when we had one child.

Now when his sister came 2 years later...that's when EVERYTHING changed. With kids, 1+1 does not equal 2. The level of effort for everything at least triples when 2 kids in diapers are involved. That's when we saw the lifestyle changes that most attribute to becoming a parent. As the kids get older and develop their own lives it begins to replace your life more and more. It seems like my primary activity these days is driving them somewhere and waiting for whatever they are doing to be done so I can drive them home. If you have two teens (or older pre-teens) in the house you really need to work at maintaining some semblance of a life of your own beyond just being a parent.
posted by COD at 2:12 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Having children has made me much more focused with where I want my life to go. No more changing channels to see what I might like to do today or next week. I make decisions faster and yet with more consideration. I work harder and accomplish more in much less time than I did before children. I appreciate what I have so much more. I fret more. I am less punctual. I'm more irritable. I like my body more. I love my family with a visceral fierceness that feels like I possess the meaning of life. I don't become depressed anymore but I am a lot more anxious. I feel more alive. I don't have as much money but I stretch it unbelievably well. Sex was great before. Now it's even better. I don't play Slayer records in the house.
posted by mistsandrain at 2:16 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

It wasn't just about me any more; it never would be again. :)
posted by reflecked at 2:20 PM on July 22, 2008

You look at the world in a different way – and even that perception changes over time. Your first few weeks are tough; a good amazing beautiful tough though, between no sleep and finding your routine your main focus is just not breaking the baby.
Soon you’ll find a routine and feel pretty good – you CAN do this! But in comes a new developmental milestone and you’ll be lost again trying to figure things out (rolling, crawling, walking, talking, throwing) – this getting a handle on things will be the rest of your life…but that’s being a parent, you’re life revolves around them.

Take the help when it is offered – there are no rewards for staying up with the baby for 48 hours or not going out with your wife for months. You need that mommy and daddy time so take advantage.

About a month ago my wife and I were talking about how small babies are when born (our son is almost 22 months) and it was sad because we really do not remember him being that small – it really goes by fast so take it all in and don’t take anything for granted. One thing I thought to do but never did was taking a picture of him same time each month to create a flip book of him growing – I REALLY REGRET NOT DOING THAT!

Congrats – your life is about to be flipped upside down but quickly things will fall into place and you’ll see that your baby flipping your world upside down made it the way it’s supposed to be.
posted by doorsfan at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2008

I have 4 kids, infant twins...
Your like will exponentially get harder, you will be relied on much more...

But let me tell you something, the second I held my 1st born, i realized, I had a new job!

Awesome? yes. hard? very. worth it? I would die for them without a second thought...
Finally, you can say, your someones dad and for that not all the riches in the world could buy that honor from you.

The only real piece of advise I would give is this -
When you make a promise to your kid, make sure your child can take it to the bank. Breaking promises like missing his 1st grade graduation or a birthday or canoeing trip when you said, you promised you would hurts....this is how my father raised me and it broke my heart, even to this day. I do not make such lightly to my 2 boys and 2 girls...

May God Bless you and your family....
Your baby has big plans for you brother!!!
posted by TeachTheDead at 3:09 PM on July 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

...not like...but LIFE will get exponentially harder...
posted by TeachTheDead at 3:10 PM on July 22, 2008

I am the father of two gorgeous, wonderful, brilliant daughters who are now adults. I was 22 when the first was born. My experience has been one of unbounded amazement at my great fortune to have the chance to raise up these precious jewels.

That they came into my life keeps me constantly grateful. Watching, and helping, them grow was a continual progression from one thrilling stage to the next. Even that painful stage of adolescence had bright spots that kept my hopes up.

I decided to treat them, not as children, but as people who lacked experience in the world. I saw my job as father to guide their development and provide them with the best opportunities that I could.

I found the ages of between 4 and 11 to be the golden years for fathers and daughters. The connections built during those years, for good or ill, will truly last a lifetime.

It was my opinion that as the father it was my duty to teach them how to be treated by men, through my example with them and my wife. If I wanted them to have a great relationship with their own spouses then it had to start with me.

For all my good intentions, however, I still fell short with more frequency than is comfortable to remember and yet those resilient children forgave me whenever I asked for it. And I did ask.

What a pathetic life I would have had without them, empty and void of lasting meaning.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:19 PM on July 22, 2008 [10 favorites]

Congratulations. What a tremendous lift to ones life.

Trinity-8-director hit it exactly on the head. What an pathetic life one would live without kids. I have two boys, one adult, one almost adult, and they are the centre of my life. I tried to teach my boys to be gentle-men as opposed to gentlemen. You don't shirk responsibility, you stand up and be counted when its time - no matter the consequences because nothing matters as much as truth.

That having been said, I became less ego-centric and less conscious of my own wants. What I mean is that suddenly the fact that I was driving a four year old urban assault vehicle decreased in importance to me. I stopped skiing, and golfing with my friends.

And more importantly, I no longer cared. I became - in a way - my father. And his father. And so on. However, i never adopted my fathers penchant for brown socks and sandals. (Thank god, but i probably have my own fashion faux pas to deal with.)

You will realize many heartaches and happinesses, and the highs will be higher than you ever thought possible. You will stop living for the occasion and start living for the moment, because as you see your babys eyes light up and that beautiful smile start, and you will realize how precious THAT second is for you. You will spend more time exhausted than you ever have before - i found sleeping on the bus on the way to work and home again a real life saver.

You will actually begin to care that the school board ran a deficit last year, and that the whole reading concept is inferior to actually sounding the word out. You will probably become more conservative. You will also understand that you have a stake in this large poker game we call society and the ante is your child's future. And suddenly, you will realize that the worlds issues are not just black and white, but shades of grey.

How will your life change? I can't tell you all of it, but it will be HUGE. And it will be fabulous if you let it.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 3:54 PM on July 22, 2008

Best answer: The spiritual/emotional/transcendent aspects of parenthood are nearly impossible to quantify, because, in my practical experience, they're different for everyone. The one thing that I can say was common to my father, myself, and my friend Randy was that we didn't immediately feel like Dad: for all three of us, it took between three weeks and a month for us to register that we were now a parent.

My dad said it didn't hit him until about a month in, when he was sitting at the kitchen table, and then he just kind of realized that he was a father: up to that point, he said, it was more like he was babysitting for someone. I had a similar feeling for about three weeks, until I was sitting there rocking my son and realized for the first time that he was my son, and not just somebody's child who had been placed into my care. Randy said it hit him about a month in when he was standing on the porch waiting for his wife, and looked down at his son in the kid seat and realized "holy crap, I'm a DAD". Long story short, don't freak out if you don't feel like a dad right away: these things sometimes take a little time to settle in.

The rest of it, as far as I'm concerned, is kind of ineffable, so I'm going to skip to the part I can eff, and talk about the practical side of "how will things change". I'm basing this answer on my own experience, the reported experience of a friend of mine with two young boys, and the reported experience at our birthing class's one-year reunion.

One unambiguous conclusion that I can come to is that keeping to a rigid schedule for the first year or so pays tremendous dividends in getting your kid to sleep through the night, keeping you from getting sleep-deprived, and managing your new household. Everyone who did this out of my sample group reported "better" results, expressed in terms of getting enough rest, not feeling like they were about to kill anyone, and keeping on top of things like meals, laundry, getting to watch a movie or two, having sex, etc.

Schedule caveat: my wife took six months off from work, so the first six months, she was home full-time and I was working. At six months, our son went into day care, and she went back to work. As of his third birthday in February, we now both work full-time, with him in a Montessori school 5 days a week.

Our schedule was:
  • 0530 wake up/breakfast
  • 0730 working parent off to work
  • 1030 snack
  • 1200 - 1500 nap
  • 1530 snack
  • 1700 working parent home
  • 1830 dinner
  • 1930 bedtime
We stuck to this religiously, and our son was sleeping through the night at six months.
  • Sleep: Everyone reported varying degrees of sleep deprivation, depending on whether or not their child decided to sleep through the night. For the first six weeks, regardless of child sleep schedule, everyone was up about every two hours or so to feed and/or change the baby. The people who experienced the best results used alternating "shifts", so that each parent got about four hours at a stretch.
  • Work: People who put themselves on a fairly rigid work schedule fared the best in terms of making it to work and being productive: flexible schedules tended to lead to a greater and greater skew until everyone was annoyed.
  • Getting Things Done: I strongly, strongly encourage you to get out of the house and back into stores and the like with your child as soon as possible. Like, the week you come home from the hospital. Get a sling or a Baby Bjorn, and get out there. We did this on the advice of a friend, and discovered that our son slept most of the time, we got our shopping and errands done, and it acclimated him very quickly to crowds and noise so that he didn't panic or have much anxiety about either. It also got us very quickly out of the mindset that our child was a radioactive object that had to be handled carefully, and into the mindset of shopping with him along just as if that had always been the case. The faster you can integrate your child into your day-to-day activities, the less likely it is that you'll feel later like they're a logistical issue to be routed around.
  • Getting Things Done II: Get incredibly anal and diligent about things like laundry and dishes: don't let anything sit around for any period of time, or you'll wind up up to your ears in dirty everything. No dirty dishes sitting in the sink, no dirty laundry piling up. Look at it as an investment in feeling like you have some modicum of control.
  • Anger/frustration/emotional overload: Try very, very hard to give each other "time off", as in a "Dad's night out" or "Mom's night out", or something outside the context of BABY BABY BABY. Look after your own emotional wellbeing first, because your child will model on you. Learn to recognize when you're feeling overwhelmed, and be able to ask your partner for help. Be diligent in monitoring your partner's mental wellbeing. Ask each other often "how are you doing," or "how are you feeling," or "do you need some time off," and don't be afraid to say that you need time off or that you're feeling like you're losing it. Parenting, at its easiest, is still hard work, and you need to make sure you're taking care of yourself as diligently as you're taking care of your new baby.
Hope some or all of this helps, and sorry about the length!
posted by scrump at 4:12 PM on July 22, 2008 [34 favorites]

As the mother of an almost ten month old son, I would say:

• I laugh more, and more heartily. I also seem to use my imagination a lot than I used to. I think his smiles are such a treat, that I will do pretty much anything to get him laughing, which often means being a complete dork in public, and not caring: Moonwalking in the supermarket, nibbling on his toes in a cafe, playing endless peek-a-boo games, assuming silly voices and facial expressions. You will find yourself, one day, in a line at a post office with everyone looking at you as you make buck fangs at an infant.

• My life has become a sort of highly organised, military-style operation. Gone are the days when I could grab my bag and be out the door. Now I have to ask myself "Do I have nappies/wipes/a bottle/a wrap/a toy/a bib/the pram/a change of clothing/the baby" etc. This kills spontaneous moments somewhat, but if I neglect to organise and plan, I invariably find myself buying something at a store because I forgot to bring it with me. Organisation has become the key to my happiness in a way that would have been abnormal in my former life. Harmony is a nicely packed baby bag, and everything with me that I need.

• I cut people a break more. When people don't show up to meetings, or are unable to make it to parties, I just figure they must have something to deal with, and move on. I used to be such a grump about such things, but now I know they aren't always mean to be a personal slight - people just have lives to live and sometimes can't fit everything in that they'd like to.

• I notice children more in general. I never really took much time to engage children, or babies, but now I find myself enjoying kids a whole lot more.

• I absolutely cannot stomach news stories involving cruelty to children or abuse in any form. I was never comfortable with such stories, but a real change has come over me, and now I find that really sad news stories just make me physically ill and I have to switch off the TV/radio. I think this maybe has something to do with the intense, singular love I feel for my little boy, and I can't help but put him in those situations in my mind. It's a powerful feeling of revulsion to hear of what some people can do to children. I think I could physically harm anyone who hurt my kid, and I am a complete wuss who never has violent thoughts. I find myself wishing for a happy, innocent, sunshiny world, no matter how naive this may be.

• I don't sweat small problems anymore. I find myself being quietly amused by the interpersonal dramas of some of my friends and co-workers. Few things seem that earth shaking to me anymore. I'm less readily insulted, and I could care less about what anyone thinks of me.

• I never, ever get the opportunity to sit idly and think about nothing, or daydream. This is a downside. I can't remember the last time I just stared into space and planned dinner in my head, or baked cupcakes, or lay in bed awake that extra hour on the weekend, took a shower where I sang and spent a silly amount of time shampooing my hair, or nibbled at my cuticles and had static in my brain. Just doesn't happen anymore, but my son won't be an infant forever, and I will have some time back again later. Right now the first year of his life is rocketing past so fast it's pracically blurred, and I have to enjoy/endure every second while I can.

• I feel genuine child-like anticipation and excitement again. I haven't felt that way since I was a kid and still believed in Santa. Looking forward to things as an adult is not the same as the complete and utter anticipatory thrill you feel as a child, and I have felt this again in both my preganancy and looking forward to family events with my baby. I thought that part of me was dead. It was only dormant.

Just a last thought - your freedom will be curtailed, but if your experience is anything like mine, you wouldn't trade your new life for anything. Far from wishing I could go out more, which is an impossibility - I rush home from work to see my son, and would be sad to have to go do any of the things I used to enjoy and leave him behind. I know not everyone feels this way, but I do.

Life is infinitely more wonderful with the baby in town, and if I'd known this I probably would have had children younger, and planned for more.
posted by lottie at 6:58 PM on July 22, 2008 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Father of a ten-month-old daughter here.

The first six months will be the hardest six months of your life. You have not yet begun to feel stress, trust me.

Having said that, people are not exaggerating when they say it's the best thing to ever happen to you. A couple of weeks back I was holding up my daughter with one arm, and we were both gnawing on the same whole wheat pizza crust, when she turned and planted a big kiss on my cheek.

You have no idea what love really means until you get fuzzy-headed crumbface deciding to kiss you.
posted by mark242 at 9:06 PM on July 22, 2008 [8 favorites]

I expected to have all of this overwhelming, grandiose, unbounding love for my newborn son. I was surprised and pleased to find out that, although I definitely loved and adored him at birth, he was a just a little stranger whom I was just getting to know.

Each day I grew to love him more. We got to know each other and learn about each other. Now he's 9 months old, and I'm still loving him more and more. He's brilliant and thoughtful and carefree - and I know that the more I get to know who he is, the more my love will grow.

It's a beautiful, reassuring prospect!
posted by Detuned Radio at 10:33 PM on July 22, 2008

I was always a fairly selfish person. I loved my work and it came first to other relationships. Then our daughter was born prematurely at 25 weeks and everything changed. She spent 120 days in the NICU and we tried to be there as much as we could. Sometimes my wife was there for almost 36 hours straight.
She's four now and a beautiful, intelligent kid who is becoming Daddy's girl. That is so enjoyable I cannot begin to express the happiness it brings me - it really just isn't possible. I still love my business but now I get to my desk by 5am so that I can spend time with my little angel in the late afternoon.

It really is the best thing that will ever happen to you. Ever.
posted by Umhlangan at 5:19 AM on July 23, 2008

It made me realize there's something in this world better than money. Let's say I was offered a million dollars for one of my children. There's no way I'd sell. I have an aquaintance who's quite wealthy but can't have children. I believe I'm way better off than him even though I'm not wealthy.
posted by qsysopr at 5:27 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

You will never lack for entertainment or purpose. And, if you don't lie to your child, you will always have someone who truly knows you as a wonderful person. Carrying around someone who has that much faith is totally enlightening. And every journey out of the house is an expedition. Prepare accordingly.
posted by ptm at 5:32 AM on July 23, 2008

I absolutely cannot stomach news stories involving cruelty to children or abuse in any form. I was never comfortable with such stories, but a real change has come over me, and now I find that really sad news stories just make me physically ill and I have to switch off the TV/radio. I think this maybe has something to do with the intense, singular love I feel for my little boy, and I can't help but put him in those situations in my mind. It's a powerful feeling of revulsion to hear of what some people can do to children. I think I could physically harm anyone who hurt my kid, and I am a complete wuss who never has violent thoughts. I find myself wishing for a happy, innocent, sunshiny world, no matter how naive this may be.


My son is two now. I have more fear about things that I ever did before. I now understand the whole "who will think of the children?" mindset better than I did, even as I try to fight against it. I try to avoid a lot of the news, because I have such overwhelming empathy for the pain of children in peril that I, too, become physically ill because of it.

So, yeah, fear. Fear that he's not ok right now. Fear that he's afraid or cold or in pain and can't tell me. Fear that his life is going to involve fear or pain because the world is such a mess.

Don't get me wrong, there is a ton of wonderful amazing stuff too. But if the question is "how did this change my life" fear is the only answer.
posted by anastasiav at 5:41 AM on July 23, 2008

One thing I forgot to mention, once you have a baby, there's a good chance it'll feel like you've been invited to a secret club as your parents and other parents start treating you differently.
posted by drezdn at 6:41 AM on July 23, 2008

"What a pathetic life *I* would have had without them, empty and void of lasting meaning."

"What an pathetic life *one* would live without kids."

The first statement is fine - it's a personal one. It's the second statement that's the type makes many people who have chosen not to have kids shudder. Why be so rude about other people's valid choices? My decision not to have kids doesn't mean I have a pathetic life, and even if you think so, please have the decency not to say it out loud in public.

From watching my sister, I've seen that not much has changed in her life since she's had a child. As someone said above, they brought her along with them on THEIR journey. Of course they do a lot more things now, karate lessons and school plans and going to the park and teaching her everything they know, but she's just a happy addition to the family, another person to share things with. If anything, I'd say that my sister is having more fun, since she laughs a lot more now.

Congrats! You'll do well - because this question proves you're concerned about doing well. It takes a lot of attention and detail to have a kid, but I bet you'll do well. =)
posted by agregoli at 9:36 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was not condemning your choice of lifestyle, I was paraphrasing. Y'know, not taken literally? To be honest, I really don't care about your decision to not have kids. My best friend is 49, married and has no kids. And neither of us care. I like him and his wife just the same.

You can find anything to be offended about if you look hard enough.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 2:08 PM on July 23, 2008

Response by poster: I just wanted to say thank you so much for all your replies, really insightful and exactly what I was looking for.
posted by razzman at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2008

I hope that my husband feels the same as most of you. He came up to me in high anxiety worrying about how he can't be social after the baby. He worries that he wont' be able to hang with people and golf. I see it as he went from super social to moderately because it's called life--people now are married, having kids, priorities. It seems like he can't accept that.

Everyone is telling him disaster stories like "oh you will NEVER be out of the house again because it's a hassle." I see it as these people choose to let it be a hassle. There's always a solution even if it means sacrifice and compromise.

I also see it as he needs to STFU and quit his whining. There are probably 10 other things he should pick as a priority of worry--like how the @#$# are we going to afford child care?
posted by dasheekeejones at 7:15 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I regained my soul. Found out how impatient I am. Gained an enormous appreciation for my own parents. Gained an appreciation for fun. Overcame my objection to silliness. Gained an appreciation for my own personal free time. A deeper understanding of love.
posted by mrmarley at 7:51 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

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