Countless tulip bouquets and greeting cards changed hands last Sunday. Children across the land burned toast making breakfast in bed. Hammocks lay empty and sports went unwatched. It’s Mother’s Day, and sons, daughters, and husbands everywhere do their best to show love for Mom.

But feminist groups aren’t satisfied with these individual acts of kindness. They use the occasion to demand politicians deliver an expensive menu of big-government programs: Oppose their left-wing politics and your love for mother becomes suspect.

Consider former NOW President Patricia Ireland’s statement in May 2001. “George W. Bush has failed women once again- — and right in the midst of the Mother’s Day season,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way that a new president could have honored mothers around the country than to increase funding to programs that benefit women and their families.” She concluded with a challenge to “show us the money.”

Of course, government only has money insofar as it takes money from taxpayers. So, like a diamond necklace purchased on mom’s credit card, these “gifts” won’t seem so generous when the bills come due. The big government programs feminists demand — Washington-run healthcare, paid maternity leave, federally sponsored daycare systems, and many more — come with huge price tags.

It may at first seem sensible for Congress to mandate employer-provided generous leave packages or on-site day care — after all, neither requires direct government spending. That’s great if you’re a politician looking to be re-elected, but should be little comfort to taxpayers.

Mandates create real costs for employers. Businesses must compensate — by raising prices, laying off workers or hiring fewer of them, or cutting pay — or they will go out of business. Ultimately, the financial burden of regulations finds its way to regular people who will face an economy with fewer job opportunities, lower wages and higher prices in stores.

Women shouldn’t be fooled: Government is no Santa Claus — everything given by politicians is paid for by us.

This year, mothers should request a different tribute — the gift of greater freedom and control of their lives. Policymakers can deliver by embracing school choice initiatives that put parents in control of where their children go to school and Social Security reform that frees individuals to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in real assets.

An income tax cut would also make a good Mother’s Day gift. High marginal tax rates are a double-edged sword aimed at women: They discourage some from going to work, but force others who prefer to stay home into the workplace to make ends meet. Lower taxes would put more money in women’s purses and spur job creation, making it easier for women to find employment or start businesses of their own.

These gifts would not only give women more control of their lives, they also would give them much deserved respect. Feminists’ calls for ever-larger government perpetuate the myth that women need a caretaker, whether husband, father or Uncle Sam. This caricature of women as de facto wards of the state is an insult. American women are more educated and more successful than at any time in history.

No politician or men’s organization would seize upon Father’s Day to argue for government support for poor, hapless dads who just can’t make it on their own. Men wouldn’t stand for it.

Women shouldn’t either. America’s mothers are capable, caring and hardworking. They deserve a day of praise. They also deserve a modern feminist movement that recognizes what women really want is not more government but more flexibility, freedom, and control of their lives. Now that’s a Mother’s Day gift that would bloom all year long..