Moms Make it Work: Julia | Part-Time, Work-at-Home Mom

Today we have another Julia (!!) posting for the Moms Make it Work series. Julia originally found my blog through Andrea--I love hearing how readers found me, since it makes the blogging community feel nice and small;)  Julia reached out to me to post as a mom to one who lives in Northwest America, who works part-time from home, and she is expecting their second baby later this summer. Enjoy!


Hi, I’ve been really enjoying Julia’s Mom’s Make It Work series and I’m so honored to contribute!!  My name is also Julia!!  My family lives in Seattle and you can find my blog at  But I don’t have nearly the skills that Julia has at making her blog look all snazzy, so please keep your expectations low if you stop by! 

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?

I majored in psychology as an undergrad, but I find people almost always misunderstand what that means.  I know nothing about therapy or social psychology (other than what I’ve read in my intro to psych textbook so I can teach it).  My focus was on cognitive psychology.  How the mind (and brain) work.  Specifically, I was interested in how infants process the sounds of their native language.  I grew up in San Diego and stayed in the area for college at California State University, San Marcos.  As an undergrad, I worked in a lab researching hemispheric specialization.  (And sorry, that facebook quiz you took on your left or right brained personality is all wrong!!).  I then applied to about 8 PhD programs and ended up at Purdue University.  In Indiana.  My focus was obviously on my studies as Indiana is not where I would choose to live!  There were a lot of things I liked about grad school.  And a lot of things I didn’t like.  My goal when I went to grad school was to get a PhD, and then a post-doc position, and eventually work as a researcher/professor at a university where my primary task would be doing research.  But after a couple years, I became sort if disillusioned with the kind of lifestyle that goes along with a career in research.  It didn’t have the work/life balance I wanted.  So, while I still loved research itself, I was starting to feel like I didn’t want the life that would go with it.  And, I’d been teaching a few undergraduate classes and enjoying that a lot more than I expected to.  So after 3 years in my PhD program, I decided to “master out” of the program.  I’d completed enough coursework and research to earn a masters degree.  So I took it and quit the program.  And I couldn’t high tale it out of Indiana faster!!  I moved to Seattle and got a job teaching psychology as an adjunct instructor at a community college and I’ve been there ever since. 

And I feel like I can’t just talk about my career.  Because I’m a rock climber.  And that was at least as important to me as my career before I had kids.  More than that, being a climber is a huge part of my identity.  Since I’ve always had summers off, before I got married, I used to sublet my apartment and go live in the campground in my favorite climbing area and just climb full time for 3 months.  When the weather was nice and I was working, I was off climbing almost every weekend.  And I’d take several trips a year to climbing destinations.  It was awesome and I have fond memories of that time. 

And that’s something that’s been somewhat difficult to incorporate that part of my life and myself into my role as a mom.  But I’m managing to make it work.  I’m climbing less, going to areas that are more kid friendly, an scheduling trips around nap time, etc.  And my husband isn’t a climber, but he’s incredibly supportive and comes on all of my climbing trips now so he can watch our kid while I climb without having to be away for a whole weekend or even a whole day as that wouldn’t work for my family for many reasons, not the least of which is that I’m still nursing my 2 year old.  I’m still getting out.  I obviously dialed it back and never did anything where I could have really injured myself, but I continued climbing well into my first pregnancy.  


I started taking my kid to the climbing gym when he was about 6 weeks old.  Sometimes I’d meet other friends there who also had kids recently.


We went on our first outdoor climbing trip when my kid was 2 months old.  And we’ve been on many climbing trips since then.  My kid sleeps great in a tent!  He used to sleep great in our Ergo on Daddy’s back for naps when he was younger.  Naps are getting more challenging at the crag these days, but we’re making it work somehow.  We just got him his own harness and helmet.  He hasn’t wanted to climb on the rope yet, but has tried a bit of bouldering, but I’m really looking forward to teaching my kids to climb if they’re interested.  And of course, I’m continuing to climb into this pregnancy as well … though having a two year old is slowing me down quite a bit.  But still getting out there! 


My husband and I are also tango dancers.  We met at a blues dancing workshop and then he introduced me to tango and it pretty much took over my dancing life.  I got completely obsessed with tango!!  We used to take lessons once a week and go dancing together several nights a week.  Sometimes we’d go by ourselves and we always danced with lots of people.  But we usually went together.

We sort of messed around the park we got married in after the wedding and the photographer followed us around and got some great pictures.

We took our honeymoon in Argentina mostly for the tango scene (though it didn’t hurt that all the best Malbec comes from Argentina).  Continuing with tango was obviously much harder after having kids.  We don’t take lessons anymore.  And we don’t get out dancing much together anymore.  One of us will occasionally go alone while the other one stays home with the kiddo, but even that is rare.  Mostly we just dance at home after the kid goes to bed.  We intentionally bought a house that had the space for that and put in hard wood floors so this would be an option.  There’s big tango festival every year in Seattle that ends with a big outdoor dance and we’ve taken my son to that every year and danced together while wearing my son.  We got a lot of attention that way and it was a lot of fun for all three of us! 


We won’t make it this year as I’ll be about 8 months pregnant.  We’ll see how we manage to continue tango dancing with two kids!! 

Anyway, back to the career and making that work … my first baby was due in late April (and born in early May) of 2012.  I don’t get any maternity leave as an adjunct, but I was able to teach online classes that spring quarter.  I don’t usually teach in the summer so I would have the summer off to be with my baby.  And then I’d return to teaching Fall quarter.  And I did.  It was a bit stressful at first because they kept changing my schedule.  Enrollment was an issue and I think there were other issues as well, so classes were being canceled and they were offering me other classes.  I ended up looking at a few other schools and after all the stress, ended up with a pretty good schedule.  I had 2 back to back morning classes, one at 9:30 and one at 10:30 at the primary school I teach at that’s about ½ hour away.  Then I’d come home and nurse the baby while the nanny took our dog for a walk.  And then head to another school that’s about 5 minutes away to teach an afternoon class at 1pm.  It was pretty ideal.  I could get my prep work and grading done while wearing the baby or while he napped – usually both at the same time.  

I could nurse for every feeding while still working full time.  I even made it to the gym most afternoons. 

But I HATED it!!  So much more than I thought I would.  I really didn’t like being away from my baby.  When I was home for winter break, I realized I was so much happier and less stressed.  But I still didn’t think staying at home would work for me for a number of reasons.  Winter quarter, I had 2 classes back to back in the morning and one online class.  I was still able to be home all afternoon, but my kid wanted more of my attention as he was getting older so planning classes and grading got harder to do. All of the work of my online class was done from home and I was struggling to find time to do that.  I was staying up after putting my kid to bed working when I was really tired which was cutting into my me time, my time with my husband, and my sleep!  And I was gone for about 3-4 hours every morning so I had to pump and leave him bottles.  With my schedule, the only time I had to pump was in the car while driving.  Which was actually really easy.  But my body never responded well to the pump.  So I’d often get to work and pull the bottles out from under the cover and blink back tears when there was only 1 oz of milk combined!!  I’d do the same thing on the way home and leave the 2 oz I got for the nanny.  Since my baby was about 7 months old by then he could go 4 hours without nursing and be just fine, so most of the milk actually ended up getting frozen.  I think I was mostly pumping out of fear of my supply going down.  But it was getting so stressful.  Plus, my baby was getting older.  Other friends of mine with kids the same age were taking them out to various activities, toddler gyms, the zoo, preschool, etc.  Everyone kept saying that being a working mom would get easier.  But I actually felt like it was getting harder and I hated it!! 

So my husband sat down and looked at our income and our budget.  And we realized that we could get by on his salary alone.  It wouldn’t always be easy and saving money would be a struggle, but if we were careful, we could even manage that.  I set up a meeting with my boss and told her that I would only be available to teach online classes.  I expected her to say they didn’t need anyone for that.  I thought I was quitting my job!  But instead she asked me how many classes I wanted!!  Three classes would be full time.  I didn’t know how to answer – this was not how I expected the conversation to go.  So I thought about it for a second and realized that working full time, even from home, would still make it hard to do all of the things I wanted to do with my kid.  So I told her two classes per quarter would be perfect.  And it is!!  We still have a nanny because there’s no way I could work even from home while taking care of my kid.  But because I’m able to work during his naptime, I can get by with 8-12 hours of childcare to do about 20 hours of work a week.  And we still have time for play dates, the zoo, co-op preschool, and many other fun activities. So that’s where I am now.

What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?
Career wise, the obvious is that I can pretty much set my own schedule.  I’ve tried various things and what works for me is to have a nanny come 2-3 mornings per week so I can work.  I was having her come 2 days a week, but upped it to 3 when I agreed to teach 3 classes last quarter because they needed someone to cover one at the last minute.  The extra money was nice, but working full time was a little nuts and I don’t think I’ll do that again!!  But since I’m currently pregnant and due this August, I decided to keep the nanny 3 days a week this quarter to give myself a little bit of flexibility.  I can use the extra time to rest, do laundry, go to midwife appointments, etc.  And I’m really glad I did that. There are days I really struggle with my pregnancy and it’s nice to have a little bit of flexibility built in since I don’t have any family around to lend a hand.  The days that the nanny comes are set, but that works well for everyone.  My kid has pre-school every Thursday (it’s a co-op and at this age you go with your kid every day).  And I signed him up for sport ball on Mondays (it’s a really cool program where they teach a different sport every session).  He’s with the nanny on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  He goes down for a nap after she leaves and I eat lunch and then continue working most days.  If I get everything done in time, I may be able to do some laundry or other chores.  Or just relax myself.  And of course the best thing about my schedule is that I have summers off and I get to be a SAHM and take him to the zoo, to tons of play dates, and just enjoy our time together during the summer.


The biggest challenge for me has always been trying to find time to schedule and go to appointments for myself.  I can bring my kid to most midwife appointments, but sometimes I’d rather go myself.  If they’re going to do an internal exam (like a pap smear), or a blood test, it’s much easier not to be chasing down a 2 year old who’s constantly getting into everything.  But if I have to, I can bring him to those appointments too and they’re very understanding.  Worse are things like hair cuts or dentist appointments.  I had an emergency root canal last week and trying to figure out who was going to watch my kid so I could go do it was ridiculously stressful.  Of course it was during a week when my nanny was out of town or I would have been able to go on one of the days she was here.  But of course that cuts down on my work time.  With her here 3 days a week now, it makes things much more manageable.  That’s still only 12 hours of childcare for about 20 hours of work.  But if you add in 2-3 hours of naptime every day, it’s manageable, though it’s a juggling act at times.  It’s even harder in the summer when I’m essentially a SAHM so I don’t have any childcare.  I am so jealous of people who have family around that they trust with their kids for date nights or doctor appointments.  I’ve been very lucky to find such great friends to help with things like this.  But it’s still stressful trying to figure out who will watch my son so I can take care of myself.  I definitely don’t get my hair cut as often as I probably should!

Another challenge for me is arranging child care.  At first, this was really hard because my class schedule would change every quarter and I really had no say in when my classes were!!  Once I started teaching online, that got a lot better!  But I still have summers off, which is awesome!!  But also brings the challenge of finding a new nanny every fall.  Of course since we don’t need childcare during the summer, our nannies have always gone off to find another job and I have to interview people all over again in the fall.  It always ends up working out and we’ve had two amazing nannies caring for my kid so far.  But it’s so hard to say goodbye to someone so good who has formed such an amazing relationship with my kid and my family!  And the stress of finding someone just as good always weighs heavily on me. 

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
No!!  Not at all!! I was the first to proudly proclaim that I could never be a SAHM.  And I’ll be honest.  I was secretly judging people who were SAHMs.  I’m such a hard core feminist!  And I really didn’t anticipate how strongly I would feel about being with my baby!  I thought I would need that outside fulfillment that a career would give me.  But I’m finding I really don’t need that nearly as much as I thought I would. 

Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
Pretty much!  I mean, short of being independently wealthy.  And even then, I do kind of like getting a bit of intellectual stimulation from teaching (though the grading can be so tedious).  And it’s actually kind of a break when my kid is downstairs playing with the nanny and I’m upstairs in my PJs grading the latest assignment that was turned in.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still work, but it’s less physically demanding than chasing a very active 2 year old around.  And these days, my pregnant body really appreciates that break.  Plus, we’ve had 2 nannies now and I can honestly say spending time with them and forming trusting relationships with these wonderful caregivers has really enhanced his life!  It’s easy not to feel guilty for working when you can hear peals of laughter coming from downstairs while you work.  And when your kid talks about his nanny in his sleep.  It can also be distracting as sometimes they sound like they’re having so much fun, I want to go down and play with them!!  And there are days I feel a pull toward being a SAHM.  But working about 20 hours a week from home really is ideal for me.  And I have summers off to get my SAHM fix, so it’s a really good balance. 

Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?
I don’t see myself staying home forever.  I would like to get a tenure track position since I know I don’t want to be an adjunct forever.  And I do enjoy teaching in the classroom!  But those jobs are hard to come by.  And even harder to get.  I’ve applied a few times and never been selected for the position.  So the tentative plan now is to save up most of what I’m earning and put it toward going back to school.  If I haven’t found a tenure track position when my youngest starts kindergarten or first grade, I’m planning on going back to get a degree in library science.  The University of Washington has a really great program and I can do it part-time in 3 years.  Ideally after that, I’d like to get a job as a librarian in some kind of educational setting.  Probably in a college library.  I’d love it if I could find something in the K-12 system because that would continue to allow me to be home with my kids in the summer.  But these are all tentative plans.  We’ll see how things go. 

Tips on how you make your situation work for you:
There was definitely an adjustment period my first quarter working from home.  Initially, I thought we’d have to/be able to let our nanny go and I could just work around my kid’s schedule.  He was about 10 months old at that time and looking back, I can’t believe I thought I would be able to work from home with no childcare!!  There’s just way I could have managed that without a magic wand that would let me add more hours to my day (hours where my kid was magically sleeping or entertaining himself in a way that wasn’t life-threatening to him.  And again I was operating under the assumption that our nanny needed 20 hours a week and would rather find another job than cut back her hours with us.  She finally let me know unprompted that that was an option.  And I ended up finding a friend of mine who needed some childcare hours as well and recommended our fabulous nanny to her so it ended up working out great for everyone.

For the hours that I’m with my kid (which is most of the time), having a set schedule works best.  So we have a regular weekly schedule of activities, play dates, pre school, etc. that happen on the same day at the same time every week.  All of these planned activities are in the morning.  We also have a pretty set daily schedule in that we have our morning activity (or he spends time with the nanny who takes him to the park or the zoo or things like that as well on a fairly regular schedule that’s somewhat flexible with the weather).  He goes down for a nap between 12:30 and 1pm every day.  If he’s not awake by 4:30 I’ll wake him up because otherwise it’s hell getting him to sleep at night.  He’s usually awake by 3:30.  And then we either go to the gym and he plays there for an hour or two while I work out, or we run errands.  Occasionally, I’ll get together with friends in the afternoon, but I rarely make afternoon plans since I never really know when he’s going to wake up from his nap.  So we have some flexibility builty into our daily schedule in the afternoons.  Daddy gets home from work around 6:30 and plays with James while I make dinner.  Then we eat and we all play together until 8:30 when my husband gives James a bath and we do our bedtime routine.  We already have our summer schedule pretty set.  Our morning activities are as follows: Sport ball on Mondays, YMCA on Tuesdays, zoo with a friend on Wednesdays, play date with our friends from preschool on Thursdays, and play date with another group of friends at a nearby park on Fridays. 

How do you handle mommy guilt?
I don’t think I have guilt about the same things as many others.  I feel like I spend so much time with my son and we both really love that.  I don’t feel guilty for the time he spends in the care of others.  In fact, I think it really enhances his life to have other people that he gets to spend time with and build relationships with!  He talks about our nanny all the time and they have their special songs and games they do together.  Sometimes I really have to focus to work when I hear his full belly laughs coming from downstairs which makes it hard to work but also makes me feel really good about being away from him and allowing him to cultivate these other relationships and trust for other caregivers.  I think a lot of my guilt comes from my feminist beliefs.  Aren’t I supposed to be leaning in or something?  I know I’m only one person, but I’m sacrificing my career in a big way so I can spend more time with my family. My husband isn’t really doing that.  And what am I teaching my children about gender roles by staying home with them?  I won’t have daughters, but what are my sons learning about what it means to be a man and a woman?  And what it means to be a mother or a father?  In my heart, I know I’m doing the right thing for myself and for my family.  And in my head, I know that I don’t have to turn in my feminist card because of the choices I’m making.  But I hate the statistics of salary based on gender for equivalent jobs.  Or of women in powerful positions.  And sometimes I wonder if I’m “part of the problem” even if only in a small and symbolic way.  In reality, I know I’m not.  To me feminism means valuing masculine and feminine roles equally regardless of the gender of the person filling that role.  I know my children will see that both of their parents are educated, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and capable.  They will also see that we are both nurturing, caring, kind, and affectionate.  My son already depends on both of us and, although my husband spends less time taking care of our son, he is just as capable of it as I am.  I know whatever problems there are in our society aren’t just based on who spends how much time working or taking care of children.  It’s so much bigger than me and I think there are big cultural changes that need to happen in how American’s organize their lives around their work and their families.  But that’s all very philosophical.  And most of the time, I’m too busy making oatmeal, kissing scraped knees, grading assignments, remembering to take my prenatal vitamins, going to the zoo, doing The Hookie Pookie, and learning about dinosaurs with my kid to worry much about that. 

Also, I’ve learned that for me, motherhood means never feeling just one way about something.  When I’m with my kid, I usually love and cherish our time together.  But it’s also exhausting and I’m sometimes counting the hours and minutes until my husband gets home so I can grab 10 minutes to myself.  Only once I’m upstairs folding laundry or just checking email or facebook, I’ll hear them laughing downstairs together and I’ll want to be there playing with them.  Or I’ll schedule a much needed haircut and be really excited to be out of the house for an hour doing something for myself.  And then when I leave the house, while I do enjoy that time, I’m also missing my kid and wondering what he’s up to with the nanny.  Or my husband and will be so ready to put the kid to bed so we can spend some alone time together at the end of the day.  And once the kid is in bed, we peek and watch him sleep, our hearts full of love.  And then we spend the rest of our evening together looking at pictures of the kid or talking about the latest cool new thing he’s learned.  I think I may never feel just one way about something again.  But that’s okay.  I think it’s just part of motherhood.  I always rolled my eyes at that quote about how having children is like having your heart walking around outside your body.  But like so many other clich├ęs about having children, I’ve found that to be largely true for me! 

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?
It’s hard to give advice on this because it’s so personal!  And I really don’t want to sound condescending, but allow yourself to feel differently than you expected to.  I’m the last person anyone thought would want to be a SAHM.  I certainly never thought I’d feel that way!!  I’ve heard people say to try returning to work and give it at least a couple months to see how you feel about it.  And I think that’s good advice.  Except if you really know in your heart that leaving your baby will be too painful for you, I don’t think you have to put yourself through that! 

And of course for some, staying home really isn’t an option!  If you’re a single mom, the primary bread winner, or if your family is really dependent on your salary, staying home isn’t always an option.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options that you haven’t considered.  I would just say don’t be afraid to think about what your ideal situation would be and think about a way to make that possible.  I have a friend who really wanted to work part time from home, but she didn’t think she ever could.  When her kid was a year old, she finally decided that she’d rather be a SAHM than work a 9-5 office job.  So she went to tell her boss she was going to quit.  And without her even asking, he asked if she’d be willing to stay on for 15 hours a week if she could work from home and only come into the office for 4 hours twice a week.  She didn’t even have to ask.  I really didn’t think my boss would go for having me teach only online classes.  But she was totally fine with it!!  I’m not saying working part time from home is everyone’s ideal situation.  But it was mine and if I’d known it was a possibility, I would have been doing it from the beginning and not endured those 6 months of struggling with working outside the home.  So if your dream is to be a SAHM, but you don’t think you can afford it, really sit down and look carefully at your budget.  We didn’t think we could make this work either.  But when we looked closely, we realized it was a possibility.  I guess my advice is just to really examine things.  Often there are possibilities that you didn’t know existed! 

And for me, breastfeeding really was the hardest part to juggle with working outside the home.  I think if I lived in Canada and had a year before I had to go back, it would have been a lot easier and I probably would have just gone back to work.  But now that I have this awesome set up, I’m not going to give it up!  So I guess my advice is just to check in with yourself regularly.  Ask yourself if you’re really happy.  And if not, why not?  Is there something you can change that would make you happier with your situation?  Cutting back your hours at work?  Finding a new job with more flexibility?  Finding a different childcare arrangement?  Stay open minded and eventually you’ll find yourself in a groove and a life you’re happy with! 

 How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??
I am pretty much solely in charge of meal planning in our family.  But that doesn’t mean I do all the work.  I do all of the cooking because my husband is totally useless in the kitchen.  But he does some of grocery shopping when I give him my lists.  I’m pretty laid back when it comes to meal planning and I rarely plan more than a couple days ahead.  But I do have lots of go-to meals.  Most of which are either quick to assemble or are made in the crock pot during nap time.  I also have a few back-up meals that are really quick to make.  Whenever I make chili, I make a huge batch and I freeze ½ of it in single size servings so we can easily and quickly thaw them if we need a quick dinner.  They also work for lunches in a pinch.  Breakfast for dinner is another very quick an easy go to – just scramble up some eggs and cook up some sausage.  We almost always have some breakfast sausage in the freezer and it thaws really quickly.  The rest of the time, we have some kind of soup, chili, or chicken and vegetable dish from the crock pot or some kind of quick and healthy stir fry or fajitas. 

How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?

Clean while the kids are awake??  Is this possible for anyone?  Honestly, I have to confess, we have a house cleaner that comes every other week.  There’s just no way I could ever clean my house on top of everything else.   So it’s either live in a filthy house, or hire out.  Of course, that’s just for cleaning.  She doesn’t do laundry, change our sheets, or pick up after us.  I usually clean up the kitchen Jeremy is giving James a bath and putting him to bed.  We share the chore of picking up the toys that James didn’t quite manage to put away before his bath.  We have designated laundry baskets for everything.  We have a hamper in the corner of our room for dirty clothes.  But in addition to that, we have 3 at the foot of our bed.  One for my stuff, one for Jeremy’s stuff, and one for James’ stuff.  This isn’t for dirty clothes.  It’s for the sweat pants that my husband pulls on in the morning when he’s getting James ready before he goes to take a shower and get ready for work.  It’s for my clothes that I take off at the end of the day that aren’t really dirty, but that I don’t have the time or energy to hang up or put away right away.  They’re for the clothes James has outgrown that I haven’t had time to organize yet or the clean clothes that I folded when he was sleeping that I didn’t want to put away in his room for fear of waking him up.  And whatever other odds and ends accumulate.  I try to empty them and put them away once or twice a week, but there’s usually something in there.  And we go through and make sure everything is cleared off and picked up before the maid comes every other week.  That’s also a good reminder to throw the sheets in the washer since she’ll put them back on when she makes the bed, but she doesn’t wash any of our sheets.  We manage to keep everything fairly presentable this way. 

I feel like I should have some grand note to end on, but I don’t.  So I’ll close with some of my favorite pictures of my family!


{Thank you, Julia! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. Sounds like a great situation! And how cool are you guys, rock climbing and tango? So cool.

    Good luck with baby #2!

  2. This is fascinating to me! I have a few friends who also adjunct at a community college, it does seem like a great balance for a working mom. I LOVE the discussion about how you integrate your hobbies into your life, so refreshing to hear about keeping those up even after having kids.

  3. Julia I think your post has been my favorite so far. I also work from home, and really appreciate your frank discussion about how you make that work (and how impossible it is to do when you don't have help as they get older!). I love how you discussed your habits/passions from before you had kids, and how you incorporate them into your life as a mother. That picture of you rock climbing while pregnant is magnificent! My favorite part though was when you talked about feminism and what your kids are learning from your marriage arrangement. We have a 1950s arrangement (he works, I take care of all things kids and home) and I'm not thrilled about the ideas my kids will absorb over time as they learn the ideas of popular culture and society and combine them with what they see at home.


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