The importance of female friendships – Janet Hoggarth

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By Janet Hoggarth

I have always been lucky enough to have very strong and long-lasting friendships with women. These women are dotted all over the world and with the advent of modern technology and social media, it feels like they are physically closer than they actually are. ♥

When I suddenly became a single parent in my late thirties, I felt like the rug had been whipped out from under my feet and a time of great uncertainty was about to unfold. The first person on the scene after my husband left was one of my oldest friends who held me while I sobbed and put the kids to bed so I didn’t frighten them. At the time my family lived too far away to immediately reach me and so my friends took up the slack. In those early weeks when sleep seemed like an unreachable relief from the constant anxiety and food lodged in my throat, my friends were a constant, bolstering me up when I crashed and burned on a daily basis. They pulled me through the fire while juggling their own busy lives and young children.

This is the Year of the Woman and there definitely feels like a shift is happening. Our voices are being heard and what we have known all along – that women are strong and resilient, kind and nurturing, adventurous and ambitious – suddenly seems to be trending. Women have always been like that. When I think of my own mum bringing up my brother and I during a rocky home life, (some of that spent as a single mum with a full-time job), I take pride in her irrepressible spirit and the fact that she never made us feel anything other than safe. It was that example she set me all those years ago, that made it possible for me to navigate my own journey into single parenthood without washing my proverbial dirty laundry in public.

So maybe this book I have written is a bit controversial, taking step back and setting that washing on a quick spin cycle. By writing about my divorce I have inadvertently invited rubberneckers over to take a peek at what supposedly went on. However, that isn’t why I wrote the book. I wrote it to highlight the unbreakable bond that grew between the two women who walked the path with me on that divorce journey, and my other friends, too many to mention, who also came along for the bumpy ride.

Five months after my own separation, another friend was left holding a four-day old baby, her house being sold to pay for the split. She had nowhere else to go so I did what others have done before, made a home for her in the top of my house where she and her daughter could live while they made a plan. We added to our number when a long-lost friend found herself in the same situation and practically moved in, spending every weekend with us.

We morphed into patchwork family that did everything together. Christmases were no longer dreaded as they can be when you’re a single parent – we all mucked in calling ourselves the Santa Mummies, making memories that our kids will treasure for ever. We holidayed together, held off the wall parties, baked elaborate cakes, almost set fire to the house on Bonfire Night, got locked out on several occasions when drunk (waking our long suffering neighbours), and we danced A LOT! But the most important thing we did in The Single Mums’ Mansion, was support each other in a way that no one else could do. No one else knew how it felt to be us, to watch our ex-husbands get remarried and start new families when we were still feeling broken. We took comfort in the knowledge that the other two would always understand.

The Single Mums’ Mansion is a fictionalised account of our journey in the commune, how we fell down, only to be picked up by one of the other women. The book is a celebration of solid female friendships and the healing power of gallows humour in the face of adversity. What we learned was no matter how dreadful we felt, how broken-hearted, that the emotion was transient, and a puerile fart joke could make you laugh until you forgot why you were miserable in the first place. We taught our children that female friendships are the lifeblood of society – long may they last!

Janet Hoggarth has worked on a chicken farm, as a bookseller, children’s book editor, and DJ with her best friend (under the name of Whitney and Britney). She has published several children’s books, the most recent ones written under the pseudonym of Jess Bright. Her first adult novel, The Single Mums’ Mansion is based on her experiences of living communally as a single parent.


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