Here, Janet, tells the story in her own words.
￼Danny was screaming for his milk, Teya wanted toast and Lilla was yelling ‘Mummy, Mummy!’ from the bathroom with increasing urgency.
All I wanted to do was sit on the floor and sob.
How could he have left me? I thought, for the hundredth time that week.
We had three gorgeous but demanding kids, aged four, three and one. And now my husband wanted a divorce.
Left totally shell-shocked, I felt ill-equipped to deal with this life as a single mum.
‘I’m so miserable,’ I told friends, who listened to my worries about money and juggling the kids.
But they had husbands – perfect families – they didn’t really understand.
One of these friends was Vicki, then 37.
She and her fiancé were expecting a baby but she still came over all the time to help out and be a shoulder to cry on.
Then, one night, a few months after my life fell apart, hers imploded too.
‘He’s leaving me,’ she sobbed, in my arms. ‘I’m eight months pregnant. What the hell am I going to do?’
I was so angry and heartbroken for her and, unlike me, she wasn’t able to stay in the family home.
‘We have to sell it and split the cash,’ she gulped.
I did everything I could to help her over the next months. I cuddled new baby Daisy when Vicki needed a cry and we cheered through her little milestones together.
When Daisy was 10 months old, and they were homeless until her house sale went through, I had an idea.
‘Move in here for a few months,’ I suggested. ‘Just until you get the cash and can afford a place of your own.’
She agreed and we set up a bedroom in my converted attic for her and Daisy. That first night was a buzz of excitement.
Daisy and Danny had their bottles of milk together and we opened a bottle of wine.
Instead of going to bed at 8pm like usual, we put the TV on and chatted. It was fun to have some grown-up time.
‘I’ve stopped feeling so sick and broken,’ I sighed happily to Vicki after week one. ‘For the first time in 18 months it feels like I’m part of a family again.’ She felt the same and so did the kids.
I’d always tried hard not to cry in front of them but they knew I’d been unhappy.
Suddenly, that had changed and our home was full of fun and laughs.
‘Welcome to the single mums’ mansion!’ we joked when other mums started dropping round for a cup of tea after school.
‘This is so much more fun than our lives,’ they said.
Hearing that, it suddenly became apparent that not all ‘perfect’ families were that perfect after all.
Then another friend, Nicola, 38, confided that she and her husband were also getting divorced.
Soon Nicola and her kids, Martha, seven, and Eliot, three, had practically moved in to the house too.
Enjoying ourselves far too much, it quickly became the plan that Vicki and Daisy would stay, even after her house sold.
Sharing the emotional and the practical load was amazing.
We took it in turns to cook and clean and we were there for each other when things were tough with our exes.
‘He’s having a baby with his new partner,’ I sobbed to Vicki.
I don’t know what I’d have done without her support. And when the dads had the kids, we three went out.
‘Did you ever think we’d party like that again?’ I laughed, as I climbed into Vicki’s bed the morning after.
Although I wasn’t interested in dating again, during the second year of living in the ‘mum-une’ I met Neil at a bar. I didn’t want things to move too fast. I wasn’t ready to leave my two ‘wives’ for a guy!
But after we’d been together for six months, it seemed like the mansion had run its natural course. Vicki and Daisy needed more space and I was excited about my new relationship with Neil.
With no hard feelings, but lots of tears, Vicki, Nicola and their kids moved out after two incredible years
‘You know you’re also marrying us,’ they told Neil at our wedding a year later. And that’s how it’s been ever since.
The girls are still a huge part of my life and the kids behave like siblings too.
In a way, we all saved each other and I think we created something very special, which I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves in my situation. I’ve also written a novel, I called The Single Mums’ Mansion.
It might have been set around the hardest period of my life but looking back it was also one of the best – and that’s not something I ever expected to feel about getting divorced.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life, on sale now.
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