Tribute to single parents on March 21st

By Caryl Clem:

On March 21st, a shout out and special THANK YOU to single parents for meeting the challenges of raising children solo. Praise for the over 19 million single parents facing all the duties parenting involves with dedication and devotion.

Factors that lead to single parenting are diverse in today’s culture. Parenting magazine covers a wide range of possibilities from a war veteran returning to Vietnam to take his child back to the United States to a never married, over 40 years old woman, internationally adopting a child.  The 1960’s research to uncover why single parenting occurred pointed to lack of birth control and poor education. In the broad spectrum of single parents today, only 13% are the result of teen pregnancy.  The frequency of divorce has had a much larger impact. According to recent statistics, over 44% of single mothers were married. The image of an “average” single mother today is changing from past perceptions. She is older, educated, has full time employment, and participates in a network of community support while raising more than one child.

Over 3 million men are the sole parent, shouldering the double parenting roles on their own. Today’s single parents represent an exceptionally talented and skillful group who are able to navigate the seas of child rearing successfully. Moving forward, children of single parents are able to be just as successful as children from two parent homes.

The “to do” list for raising emotionally stable children applies to everyone.  Current research is documenting that positive single parent kids have these advantages:  1) closer communication bonds with their parent and involved family caretakers 2) ability to respond to situations sharing responsibility 3) are friendly and cooperative working with others. (Nicole Lyn Pesce, “Research shows single moms are raising kick-ass kids” March 20, 2018.)  As single parents increase their support systems, the premise, it takes a village, pays off for their children. New York Post quote, “The children of many single-parent families have the same success as those with married parents”.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to share shaping a child’s dreams into a future reality understands the mix of magic and challenges. Today, single parenting has resources from support groups and community organizations. Since 1957 the agency, Parents without Partners, has been offering a spectrum of services to address the needs single parenting presents. The birthday of this group is March 21, a fitting day to declare a tribute to single parents!  In recognition that family is the most important factor in our lives; praise for the single parents in our communities!

You are loved

Christy Utterback, 47, is a retired social worker from Clarkville, Arkansas and currently holds the county title of Mrs Peach; smiling with her grandfather who began his life in Kankakee, Il. The family moved in the late 1960’s to California.

Christy was born and raised in southern California experiencing divorce at the age of four. Her biological father was abusive even after the divorce. Her Mom re-married who is married to the same man today. In high school, Christy continued to face many obstacles with men and she was raped.  Throughout the tragedies, her self- esteem would terribly suffer but her belief in God; always a part of her heart. Christy would see a light and hear a voice saying “you are”, encouraging strength in life’s journey rather than weakness.

In college, Christy volunteered for the Special Olympics Ski Team on campus and learned sign language. That same voice and light in her dreams gave her confidence to help others and get a degree in social work. But Christy was also building walls against harms way, gaining weight rapidly to protect herself from hurt. However, she met a man in college and he proposed on Christmas Eve; they married in 1994. Her husband joined the Air force and they tried to become parents. Christy kept having one miscarriage after another because of her weight and too much testosterone.

While living in Montana due to Airforce orders, Christy started to become extremely ill with liver and kidney failure. Without a gastric bypass to lose weight, she would die. The doctor said those words to her on a Thursday; the surgery scheduled that Monday. Immediately following the surgery, Christy had five procedures and was able to lose 100 pounds. Her love for herself began to grow. But her husband became angry, frustrated and stated drinking heavily.

She gets a phone call. Her grandparents need her in California to help take care of Grandma, compression fractures all over her spine, Grandpa can’t lift her. Christy drives all day/night on 9-10-01. On 9-11-01., Grandfather wakes her up, “get up get up, call your husband, we are under attack”  She calls home, no answer, we watch the USA crumble… all day, no answer. Finally, a call. Can’t come home, base on lock down, unknown when she can return.

Christy stayed a month with her grandparents while Grandma recovered. In 2003, her grandparents moved to be with her parents in Arkansas. In February of 2004, Christy arrives in Arkansas, beaten horribly by her husband. Intensely distraught, her family came together to help. She explained little, but enough to let them know; this was it.  She filed for divorce and was also pregnant. By the grace of God, there was a heartbeat. Ultrasound after ultrasound revealed, a baby……a boy.

It was shortly after that Christy met her husband, Bob Utterback. The first time they talked she asked him if he was into big girls. He said, Oh I don’t know, I am just looking for a friend. Me too, Christy said. Bob had been married before and had four children. On August 23,2004, with Bob by her side, now her glorious husband, Seth Riley was born via C-Section.

Food was still Christy’s only comfort, her armour, her wall,and she began gaining her weight back; suffering from kidney failure again.  However, those in her life, including her doctor and her husband, refused to give up on Christy. At one point, she was 400 pounds.

Since 2016, she is has been down 200 pounds while continuing to work out at the gym and bicycle. Now a mom of 6, the pageant world was a dare. Her niece, who is big herself, was an inspiration. She was confident, beautiful and she dared her to enter. Christy entered one pageant on a dare and won. Since, she has entered many; winning many crowns.

Currently as Ms Peach, she represents the county at many events including business openings, parties, ribbon- cutting ceremonies and other planned social occasions. Consequently, Christy loves to help others while thanking the community for their support.

But most of all, her reason for sharing this story is so that many women who struggle with weight loss, abuse, and lack of self-esteem realize that they are not alone. Her prayer right now is that you see yourself differently. Begin your own journey of accepting that you are…that you are truly loved and see what comes forth. It may surprise you, it may hurt at first, but you can overcome and see nothing but the best.

Blessings & Love always,  Christy

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