"[My 4-year-old daughter, Julia,] usually hangs out with me in the office," explains Terri Sarappo, owner of Sarappo Media Services, a media planning and buying firm in Belmont, California. "She draws or plays school while I'm here." To avoid problems, Sarappo has established some rules. "I haven't had any major problems with my equipment because I don't let her play around my computer when I'm not here. She tried to put her apple juice on my desk yesterday but was quickly told that wouldn't work."
However, Sarappo admits that it's not always easy having her young daughter in her office. "The hardest thing is to keep her quiet when clients are on the phone," says Sarappo, who does have Julia spend some time in day care. "When I was doing this last year when she was three, she screamed, 'Get off the phone and play Barbies with me.' Work stopped and she went off to daycare at that moment."
Although Julia now understands that when mommy's on the phone, talking is forbidden, she still "loves to come in and distract me while I'm working," says Sarappo. "She'll report on what she's doing on a minute-by-minute basis or keep interrupting me to ask for help with what she is doing. That makes work take twice as long," says Terri. For example, it once took Sarappo several hours to finish a spreadsheet for a client. Although she charges by the hour, Sarappo only charged the client for two hours. "That was a more accurate estimate of what the job would have cost without Julia around."
Another Julia-created challenge: "Running out of supplies, especially paper and file folders, which she uses for artwork," Sarappo says. "Sometimes I have to stop and run to Staples at the last minute because there's not enough paper left to receive faxes or print reports.
"One of the things I try to teach her is to respect work. She understands that we work to get money, and if she's good, I can continue to work here instead of at an office. She likes that. I also bought her a present from the Lillian Vernon catalog and told her it was because I got paid for a job. Now she wants me to work so we get her more things!"
Sarappo took the time to explain these economical basics to her young daughter, she says, "[because] I just thought it was important to show her that there was something in it for her as well: More time with mom because I no longer work full time, and I share the wealth when a project is finished."
Establish phone rules before embarrassing situations