22 December 2011

Annie (Mammasaurus) Spratt - Single Mums' Stories 5.

Annie, 36, is a woman after my own heart. She and her husband of four years, Papasaurus, fell in love while they were already living together.  They live in Hampshire with their two young children, 'Queen Scamp' and 'Ozzy.'  
Better known as Mammasaurus, she is a leading light in the Blogosphere, prolific in her writing and support of all bloggers and has masterminded Love All Blogs, including Love New Blogs, and Love Cookery / Craft / Dad / Mummy / Photo Blogs with Love Music / Travel / Beauty / Fashion / Videos / Politics Blogs to come.

Annie has six other children, giving her a total of five lovely boys and three gorgeous girls, 16, 15, 13, 11, 10, 9, 3 and 2 and, as well as also working on finishing her first book, she has other projects on the go, one of which is supporting Black Dog Tribe, which was founded by the famous comedienne RubyWax, a baby born to her, to help raise awareness about mental illness and kill off the stigma which surrounds it.
We all know Mammasaurus to be original, creative, witty, clever, frivolous and outlandish. She says she's 'just a mum in a dressing gown writing stuff down that comes to her.'  You've only got to take a look at this Christmas Karaoke of hers to appreciate how far from true this is!    

Yet recently she wrote about Living in Cloud Cuckoo Land - sharing her experiences of living with mental illness.  Looking back, she believes her first marriage broke down as a result of Post Natal Depression - something we haven't yet covered in this series of Stories from Single Mums. Her first husband is now one of her closest friends. 

Here, she writes a very serious story along lines we are more familiar with. However the degree is nothing short of shocking. Her honesty is brutal and unnerving. It is about the break up of her second marriage and what happened when she became a single mum. Her message is sincere and important.  

She serves as an inspiration to us all.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honour and a privilege to give you Annie (Mammasaurus) Spratt:

Annie (Mammasaurus) Spratt, 36.

Back in 2003 I was single mother of six children under the age of seven, I was living on state benefits

and every value brand of food under the sun.

“It’s irresponsible if you ask me, having kids that she can’t afford and expecting the rest of us to
pay for them” are the words I overheard another mother speaking in the school playground one

My second marriage broke down in very unpleasant circumstances. Following many months of my
husband controlling every aspect of my life I mustered up the courage to tell him that I no longer
wanted to be in a relationship with him and I asked him to leave.

At this point I have to add a bit about his controlling nature. We had been together for three years
before I even began to notice what was happening. If he rang from work and I didn’t answer the
phone, for example if I had popped to the local shop for supplies, I’d have a long interrogation on
his return that evening. Where had I been? How long for? What hadn’t I told him before he went to
work I was going out? Even if anyone we know could verify my whereabouts.

I became a the secretary of the school PTA but attending evening meetings proved problematic
– if I was gone for any longer than an hour I would have to explain why it went on so long, who I
was speaking to and so on. Whilst I was part of the PTA I became friends with a very strong and
inspirational woman, she was married with children but had her own identity – it was only through
getting to know her that I realised just how wrong my life had become. When my husband told me
to choose between him and the PTA I chose. And it wasn’t him. ‘It’s me or the PTA’ sounds bloody
funny in hindsight.

I felt weak willed and useless, how had this man managed to manipulate me so much? The answer?
Very slowly and systematically.

A week after I has asked him to leave he came to visit the children, it was then he raped me, in front
of my two youngest children.

That’s the precise moment when we went from a separated family to me and the children being
alone. The police became involved, I took out an injunction against my husband and the CPS
reviewed the case. The case was dropped – insufficient evidence they said, my word versus his word.
It could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

I went from a housewife and mother of six children with a ‘loving’ husband who had a reasonable
job to a single mother of six children, coping with the after effects of rape surviving on benefits the
best I could. The word ‘stress’ does not even come close to describing how hard it was.

My mother and I do not have the best relationship; she is what I would call a critical mother.
Whatever I do it’s not good enough or done as well as she would do it. The first example that pops
to mind is potty training. I started potty training my eldest at 18 months old only to be told by
my mum that it was ‘far too late – you were potty trained by the time you were 8 months old’.

My mother was the only family I had, my father had died a few years earlier and one day she had
come to visit us and asked me ‘Are you sure you were raped? N******n seems like such a nice man, 
are you making it up?’

I asked her to leave and to this day we don’t speak much.

Fast forward a few months and the family court decided that my husband had done nothing to the
children and so I would have to let him see them every weekend. On the first weekend of contact
one of boys was returned to me minus his lovely long golden locks. He had had his head shaved.
My husband’s reasoning he ‘thought he saw a nit’. The next weekend the children came back from
visiting him with his wedding ring saying ‘daddy misses you he was crying – please can he come and
live with us?’

Things got much, much worse and I couldn’t cope at all. I arranged for my children to live with their
fathers. The older three with their father and the middle three with my second husband and I left. It
was known that I was going but I told no one where.

The point of telling this story is that it’s easy for people to judge you as a single mother – benefits
scrounger, slag, irresponsible. People need to take a step back just for a moment, some single
mothers are single through choice and are strong and independent women. Others are single
mothers through no fault of their own and are just doing what they need to do to get by, to exist,
to be a good mother to their children. Single mothers do not need snide looks, accusations or
stereotyping – they need support and respect. Respect for having the strength to go it alone, to be
the main carer, bread-winner, conversation holder, bottom wiper, friend and role model.

Next  At Gingerbread, we think single parents do a brilliant job!