Today’s mothers do many things. There’s shopping, cooking, cleaning and child care. Then there’s driving, homework, hobbies and holidays. Oh — then there’s going to work. Fully 70 percent of all mothers with children under the age of 18 are in the labor force (working or looking for work). Even among mothers of infants younger than 1 year old, 55 percent are in the labor force. Yes, indeed, the modern mother works.

Motherhood is as American as, well, motherhood and apple pie. Yet America offers Moms precious little support. We’d be much less stressed-out and fatigued if high-quality, low-cost child care were readily available. So much less TV would be watched, and way more homework would be done, if after-school programs actually accommodated everyone’s children. Our kids would get more exercise, too. It would be a lot simpler to prepare healthy meals if it were easier for moms to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Sorry, Mom. We love you, but …” That’s the refrain we hear over and over again, from Washington, D.C., down to the Blaine House.

“We can’t afford universal free child care; heck, we can barely afford qualified teachers in K-12 classrooms.” “Meaningful activities after school? No way. Not unless you have money to spend. That goes for sports, too — you’ve got to pay to play.” “Nutritious, healthy food? Can’t afford that. Not after we’ve ponied up tens of billions for the nation’s largest, most profitable, and most environmentally harmful corporate farmers.”

That’s what the austerity hawks say. But they are wrong.

To really celebrate “everymom” we have to rethink the federal budget. Here’s why:

Taxpayers in Maine will shell out $173.4 million in 2012 to fund Homeland Security. For half of that we could instead hire 1,500 elementary teachers or provide health care for 39,000 low-income children. We could fund 11,500 new Head Start slots or cover the health-care costs of 13,000 veterans. We could even grant full scholarships to 9,000 students enrolled in Maine colleges and universities. Any of these options, in any combination, would sure help Mom.

If these numbers make your head spin, you’d best stop reading now.

The Department of Defense costs Maine taxpayers $1.4 billion a year. What could Maine mothers have for one-quarter of that?

Ma, sit down for this one.

Every single child under the age of 10 could have full health-care coverage. Or all kids 5 and under could have free day care. Or The VA could meet all the health needs of our vets. Or the University of Maine System could cut tuition in half. Now, that would be a meaningful Mother’s Day gift.

President Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, knew the harsh reality lurking behind these trade-offs. Early in his presidency, he declared, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Indeed, these sentiments gave birth to Mother’s Day. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe — resident of Gardiner, Maine, abolitionist, suffragist and advocate of disarmament — issued a proclamation calling on mothers of the world to stand united for “the great and general interests of peace.”

It’s time to call out politicians who, all dewy-eyed about theoretical moms, put real mothers’ interests dead last in the budgets they support. And, by short-changing mothers, the whole society suffers.

The mother-child connection is intensely intimate. And nothing better defines domestic policies than the budget.

The personal “I love you, mom” is political. Happy Mother’s Day!

Susan Feiner is a professor of economics and of women and gender studies at the University of Southern Maine.