The Failures of Our Dreams
and Back-up Systems
LONG BEFORE THE WELFARE STATE, THE "SCOURGE" OF TEEN pregnancy, or the decline in family values, there was persistent poverty and myths surrounding it. In fairy tales Hansel and Gretel were abandoned in the woods by a poor couple unable to feed them. Neither goodness nor beauty saved Cinderella from having to clean chimneys after her mother died and her father remarried in order to find someone, anyone, to care for her while he traveled. Sister upon sister, in fiction and fact, was married off unhappily to save families from poverty. Orphans could find no safe home. Even in the biblical story of Ruth, poor, unmarried women had to glean the wheat fields, picking up the droppings after male harvesters were done. Indeed, poverty among women is an abiding theme in legend and history.
In myth and story, things could end happily ever after: poverty ended with a good marriage. Today, women are offered another option, with roots as much in fantasy as in reality: Poverty can end with a good job.
But woe still betides the woman with children who can't make the good marriage. And, SuperMoms still find kryptonite everywhere: in "job packages" that lack the time flexibility, adequate health benefits, and/or adequate wages to sustain families; in training programs that lead nowhere; in unsafe neighborhoods that demand Mom be home more, not less, than her suburban counterpart. Indeed,