Caro’s Frolo Story – Solo Parent and Business FounderBy Alice Duddy
Caro Lundin, co-founder of ARC Club, a single parent-friendly neighbourhood workspace in East London, shares her story
My name is Caro Lundin. I’m an architect and co-founder of ARC Club – a neighbourhood workplace in Hackney, London. I’m also the mother of a little boy, Francis, who is three years old.
Since 2018, I’ve been a solo parent 100% of the time. I was supposed to return to an architecture practice after maternity leave but, being on my own with a small child, I quickly realised that wasn’t an option. I had no family around me that could help with childcare (I’m Swedish and they were all back in Sweden) and most of my friends in London are hard-working individuals without children. My days were lonely and rather tough.
I felt guilty about not being there enough for Francis when he was home. Or I felt guilty that the house was always a mess.
I had a few small architectural projects but my work/home situation was challenging. Francis and I lived in a small flat in Hackney with no outdoor space and I couldn’t afford a nursery full time. I had been given 15 hours a week by the government – but that’s not really enough. As a person, you sometimes crave, just once in a while, to have a shower alone; to meet with a friend; to go to work and even the gym on the odd occasion. 15 hours of childcare meant I could just about finish some household chores and get started with work. I felt guilty about not being there enough for Francis when he was home because I was trying to write, research or draw. Or I felt guilty about the fact the house was always a total mess. I needed to put some distance between my home and my work.
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I met with Hannah Philp in the spring of 2018 through a friend from my NCT class. She had recently left her job as the Marketing Director of an investment company and was working solo on a new venture – a coworking project. She wanted to interview me for a possible role as the designer. This was the start of a wonderful partnership – and friendship. We wanted to create a space for people like ourselves: freelancers and solo parents working from home. Hannah felt lonely and unproductive. I felt tired and in desperate need of a professional environment.
We co-founded ARC Club last year and opened our first site in Homerton this July. We hope to open more in 2021. Hannah is the CEO and I’m the Creative Director.
Being a parent and setting up a business is hard work. The workload is immense but, luckily, I work in a team where being a parent is supported. The team arranges meetings around my schedule and understands if I can’t show up when Francis is ill. Hannah has helped out with babysitting numerous times and Francis has joined me on-site for meetings, Zoom calls, and work trips. He thinks ARC Club is Hannah’s house, he’s been there so much! My hours are extremely flexible and I can do a lot of research remotely, which allows me to work around Francis’ schedule. I could never have a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes I get up at 6 am to work before Francis gets up – he’s a good sleeper so I usually get three hours of work done then.
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Working mums have been hit hard by the recent pandemic. A recent survey by Pregnant Then Screwed showed that more than three-quarters found it challenging to manage childcare and paid work during lockdown. And 57% thought increased childcare responsibilities had negatively affected their career prospects. Lockdown has shown us that mums still end up doing the majority of the childcare and housework – even in two parent families with both parents working from home. As one of many solo parents who ended up working for myself after having children, these problems aren’t new to me. But with remote working becoming more mainstream, they’re only going to become more common.
We hope that ARC Club can be a convenient solution for single parents who want to get out of the house and into a professional environment that isn’t across town. I wish I’d had something like it around the corner from me when I was working alone – and even during my maternity leave. It’s lovely to be able to be at home and care for your child, but it’s equally important to feel like there’s another place just for you. To actually put on a pair of trousers instead of joggers and go to a space full of other adults that are working, even for just a couple hours, can do a lot for your mental wellbeing. That’s why we made the decision not to have childcare or an open playgroup at ARC. It’s a grown-up place, designed for work – somewhere between home and the nursery or school-gate.
It’s lovely to be able to be at home and care for your child, but it’s equally important to feel like there’s another place just for you.
ARC Club Homerton is serene and bright. We have a small canteen, bookable meeting rooms, a quiet area, a social area with large tables and a small lounge area. For future sites, we’re looking at London areas with a dense residential population and a local high street. When you’re a solo parent, you really appreciate having everything on your doorstep – and ARC is just a part of the solution. A typical ARC Club is a lot smaller than your ordinary workspace – we’re about 250 sq metres. You won’t find any beanbags or ping pong tables (there are enough toys at home) – just an accessible, functional, design-led space. Think Scandinavia meets the 70s. Fairly minimal. A clean, calm respite, although we love colour and fun details too.
Coming from Sweden where childcare is split evenly between both parents and affordable for solo parents, I’ve always known how important it is in order to get back to work after having a child. Even if the UK government won’t change, I hope more and more companies, like ARC, will step up and offer parents a more flexible solution.
ARC Club Homerton is a neighbourhood workplace for people who are tired of working from home. It offers full office functionality – meeting rooms, free printing and filter coffee – in a design-led interior to anyone in need of a professional space to get work done.
Visit www.arc-club.com to join now.