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…

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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)

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