For Mother’s Day 2021, let’s refocus from flowers and breakfast in bed to how mothers are really being valued. Because while warm fuzzies are all very well, they don’t replace material conditions that make everyday life livable.

April jobs numbers showed women continuing to leave the workforce, a phenomenon that we’ve been seeing for months in large part due to the pandemic’s pressures on working mothers. But as women leave or stop looking for paid work because of family obligations, they lose economic security, not just for this year but potentially for their lifetimes.

That’s not the only major struggle mothers face in the U.S. these days. Take the very process of becoming a mother through pregnancy and childbirth. The U.S. has the worst maternal mortality rate among industrialized countries, with Black women facing significantly worse outcomes than white women. According to the CDC, the pregnancy-related mortality rate for Black women with college degrees is 5.2 times that of white women with college degrees.

Speaking at a Thursday hearing on Black maternal mortality, Rep. Cori Bush recounted her own experience of her son being born dangerously early after a doctor dismissed Bush’s feeling that something was wrong, and her daughter almost miscarried because another doctor tried to send Bush home to abort when she went into preterm labor at 16 weeks. “Every day,” Bush tweeted, “Black birthing people and our babies die because our doctors don’t believe our pain. My children almost became a statistic. I almost became a statistic.”

”Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in April, during Black Maternal Health Week. In response to that crisis, the Biden-Harris administration started to take action, with funding requests for hundreds of millions of dollars to implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers, bolster enforcement of civil rights in health care, and more.

Maternal mortality is a crisis not just because it’s a crisis now, but because it could get worse as climate change progresses. “As a coalition of 54 organizations told US President Joe Biden, studies show exposure to extreme heat, hurricanes, and wildfire have detrimental impacts on maternal health, such as increased pregnancy hospitalizations and complications like dangerous maternal diabetes and premature birth,” Human Right Watch reports

Mothers who come safely through pregnancy and delivery then face a lack of paid leave, difficulty finding affordable and good quality child care, job discriminationdiaper costs that can overwhelm the low pay too many mothers get, and more. Women disproportionately take on unpaid care work not just for children but for other family members. 

Again and again, mothers are offered a lack of value and respect. And then once a year they get flowers and breakfast in bed—and are then often expected to clean up the mess from making the breakfast. Spare me the big fuss. We need policy.