A decade in Big Sky

Kristen Hovey on creating a sisterhood and being a single mom

Being a single mother in a ski town presents challenges – Kristen Hovey knows. Now a decade in Big Sky, she has stayed because she loves the area, the community and her friend-family. Still, she prepares to leave at the end of every season. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is “be-coming more harsh and aggressive” nationwide, she said – not just in Big Sky, although it may be more visible here. “My rent goes up. I pay for my kid. I pay for my dog. I pay for my family,” she said. “I can’t move up. We are at a point where I have to go to the food bank, but I still have to go to the grocery store to supplement. What happens when my rent goes up and I can’t supplement anymore? What am I going to feed my kid?” Hovey has been figuring out where to work for housing and where to work for food. She works at Choppers because she gets housing and a shift meal, and works at Blue Moon Bakery because she gets a meal and they offer housing. With a night job bartending at the Sit and Spin Laundry Lounge, she said she loves her people who visit. They are not just visiting for drinks, either. As she pours alcohol and runs the cash register, she does not miss a beat in philosophical discussions ranging from the meaning of life, to the definition of success, to what birth order can mean to a person. Obviously happy and at ease in her environment, she would still like to not have to bartend, but that money is essential to her survival. Getting home at 4 a.m. and her son to school by 8 a.m. is taxing. The luxury of sleep would be nice. It was Atlas who changed things for her – made her look at Big Sky and her life in a different light. “We couldn’t entertain the idea to sleep in a closet, or a garage, or someone’s couch anymore,” she said. “Luckily, we have been here long enough that we have connections, and have been able to stay, and find housing at the last minute, but that gets more and more scarce each year.” She grew up in a conservative Catholic family in Bismarck, N.D. Summers were spent “in the middle of nowhere” on the family farm where things like soybeans, pinto beans and corn are grown. Hovey is grateful for her upbringing, because she learned what it was like to be different, she said. She found Big Sky, a place she deems “the land of misfit toys” but includes herself in the mix. “When we leave, it’s not that I’m leaving to a better community, it’s that I will be moving to a more privileged demographic,” she said and voiced concern about the people who will be struggling in her next community the same way that she did here. She does not want to move. She wants to be a voice that stands-up for those struggling; she wants to be the person who calls-out the elephants in the room. “As a single parent in this town, working in the service industry, I can’t afford to ever own a home – even ‘affordable’ housing. I feel like in this community, people have a trust fund or a parent passes and they get a lump of money where they can stay. That is a factor in this community,” she said. People who moved to Big Sky the same year as her, who worked the same jobs were able to buy houses. “That is a beautiful privilege, but something we will never have,” she said. “For the people who don’t have that, what happens to us? For the people who don’t have a mom, a dad or an uncle who passed?”  It is intrinsic to her nature to ask the tough questions and generate discussions. Nearly four years ago, she founded the Facebook group The Divine Sisterhood. It now has nearly 1,400 members across the nation. The group initially began as a means for women to vent away from their personal pages, but it has become so much more. “It has become this profound space,” she said. Women discuss relationships, jobs, sex, parenting and empower-ment. “It’s a space for these people to show up. We have a really fantastic group of women,” she said. “There’s a level in our group that is not just blind support. We are trying to be constructive in a real way.”

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