Oreo cookie crumbs in the keyboard. . . an X-rated site suddenly appearing in your bookmarks list. . . a scream erupting from your home office as you're preparing dinner in the kitchen. Signs of a gremlin? Not if you have a child living in your house.
Parents who neglect to childproof their home offices may regret their oversights. Think it's not important? You'll rethink that theory if one of these situations occurs in your house:
Attack of the Cookie Monster. You walk into your office and discover a keyboard generously sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs. The Cookie Monster also appears to have spilled milk on that storyboard you created last night for your presentation this morning. And those crayoned scribbles on your computer monitor don't exactly give you that warm, fuzzy feeling either.
Analysis: You have a child between the ages of three and six years who has been having early morning fun.
Recommendation: As detailed below, solutions range from establishing rules (cookies are off limits in the office) to making computer usage a reward (if you feed the cat in the morning, you can play computer games for an hour in the afternoon).
A trip to the emergency room. You're in the kitchen fixing dinner, and you suddenly hear an agonized shriek from your home office. You dash into the office and discover your toddler has been bonked on the head by a glass paperweight that was within her reach.
Recommendation: You may need to baby-proof your office (for example, buy special plugs for your outlets) and remove temptation from your toddler's range.
It's time for that talk. You suddenly receive a barrage of e-mails that are definitely X-rated. Put that together with a teenager who's been devoting quite a bit of time to unsupervised Web surfing, and you can suspect, either accidentally or deliberately, he or she has been exploring Internet highways that you definitely don't want your child to travel.
Recommendation: Limit and supervise your child's Web site exploration using programs like NetNanny and by being in the office during his or her surf excursions.
One of the challenges of being a homebased business owner with kids, of course, is to avoid shutting out your children while safeguarding your office. To meet that challenge, entrepreneurial parents have devised a variety of solutions.