The so‐called European Social Model consists of four distinctly different poverty regimes with diverse consequences for men and women. According to current political rhetoric these policy regimes are changing significantly everywhere, hence transforming the opportunities and challenges for men and women. This article discusses whether, and to what extent, the perceived changes have affected low‐income mothers in European urban settings. The data are drawn primarily from qualitative interviews with mothers of young children (under school age) in low‐income neighbourhoods in three middle‐size cities: Hochstätt in Mannheim (Germany), Le Breil in Nantes (France), and Tang Hall in York (UK). In each neighbourhood 20 mothers were interviewed during 1998 and 1999. For all four welfare regimes within the European Union, mothers and fathers have traditionally had very different roles within the family and varying opportunities to participate in the labour market. According to recent policy formulations this situation is changing. However, the changes are not reflected in the everyday life of poor citizens. Rather, the interviews revealed that business was as usual.