"But the real question is not how well I did at work but how well I did at life in general, which includes eating and having a place to stay" (Ehrenreich 196).
I believe this quote pretty much explains her life at the poverty level. Her life was a constant worry about being able to provide for herself. Imagine if she had a family. The pressure would be even more demanding. She found out that to provide for a single person it sometimes required her to work two jobs. The entire time she lived in poverty was spent learning how to survive!