Heartbreak hotel: The single mums’ commune
Janet Hoggarth was devastated when her marriage ended but, when two friends found themselves in similar straits, they banded together to form their very own family…
Iwas in my baby son Danny’s bedroom when my ex broke the news. ‘I’ve lost the love,’ he said. ‘I’m leaving.’ I was feeding our youngest a bottle and, for a few seconds, his words hung in the air. We were approaching our sixth wedding anniversary. As well as Danny, then one, we had Lilla, five, and Teya, three. We were a family – he couldn’t just go.
Yes, we were going through a rocky patch, but what couple with three children weren’t? We’d been bickering, and I was stressed about returning to my job as an author. But we didn’t have blazing rows. We didn’t hate each other. I’d thought it was just a phase that would pass.
I begged him to stay and suggested counselling, but all he’d talk about was how we’d tell the children. Within a week, in May 2008, he’d moved out. I was left in our south London four-bed house, trying desperately to hold my life – and my heart – together.
Unable to explain my newly single situation to myself, let alone others, I stopped going to baby groups. When my eldest child, Lilla, started primary school, I’d drop her off, then run. I couldn’t bear the sight of happy families.
‘Excuse me, your skirt is falling down,’ a mum pointed out one day. I hadn’t realised I’d lost so much weight that none of my clothes fitted me any more.
I felt so alone. None of my friends were divorced and, although they rallied around, bringing food and forcing me to the pub, they couldn’t understand how low I felt.
So, when a friend, Vicki Hillman, now 46, arrived at my door six months later, sobbing that her relationship was over, I knew exactly what she was going through. She’d been having problems with her fiancé for a while and they finally split in December 2008, when her daughter, Daisy, was two months old.
As we were both in the same situation, Vicki would spend her evenings and weekends at my place as I helped her to negotiate the complicated separation process.
‘ We’re having to sell the house,’ she cried. ‘ Where will we live?’
‘Move in here,’ I suggested, impulsively. Luckily, we’d had savings, which my ex had taken, leaving me with our house. It made sense for Vicki to move in. She was at mine all the time anyway, and we had a spare bedroom in the attic with a bathroom.
So, in September 2009, Vicki and Daisy moved in
Janet (centre) and her faithful ‘ wives’ – Vicki (left) and Nicola (right)