Expressing yourself can be hard. Thank goodness for emojis and, this week, for greeting cards.

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. It’s not just about flowers and breakfast in bed. It’s also a great case study in communications. Your very choice of card can send a subtle message.

Does that humorous card simply mean you like to joke around? Are you poking fun at yourself, or is it a dig at mom? Does a heartwarming card signal your true feelings? Or is it an easy way to avoid them? Does the expensive card with beautiful paper and an intricate design say you care or you’re feeling guilty?

If you think it’s so easy to say what you want in a card, you haven’t seen the Mother’s Day guide from Hallmark. It has lengthy list of suggestions – not of what kind of card to select, but what to add in your own writing!

Yes, it’s a cheat sheet for human connections. There are sample lines of what to pen for your mother, your grandmother, someone who’s like a mother to you, your spouse, your sister, your friend, your daughter, your granddaughter, a new mom and a mom-to-be.

Hung up on what the woman who raised you actually means to you? Well, just copy one of the Hallmark recommendations. Like “You’re my one and only mom, and I’ll always have a special place in my heart for you.” Or “I’m so proud to be your kid.” Or “Now that I’m grown, I realize I don’t just feel gratitude for you but admiration.”

Again, this isn’t what’s printed on the card. It’s what Hallmark proposes you write, with your own hand, inside. There are even writing tips for each category.

For instance, “If your relationship with your mother is complicated, don’t feel obligated to make your message more complimentary or effusive than you feel. Focus on what’s positive and true between you. Tell her you’re thinking of her. Or simply wish her a beautiful day.”

The Hallmark guide also has tips for “warm closings”, as in the few words just before your signature. Such as “with love” vs. “love always” vs. “all my/our love” vs. “with much love and admiration”.

This isn’t to mock Hallmark therapy. The guide’s existence reinforces that many people struggle with basic sentiments. That shouldn’t surprise, nor should the fact that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day also offer a lesson in the perceptions of parental roles.

How do dads fare?

Father’s Day has a far greater selection of funny cards, which often revolve around dad’s shortcomings. Maybe that reflects the stereotype that dad is the lovable goof and mom is the emotional heart of the family. A columnist observed that Father’s Day cards “are like dads themselves – entertaining, short on words, scatological and maybe a little emotionally stunted.”

Moms also come out way ahead of dads on card sales. According to the Greeting Card Association, the occasions that sell the most cards are Christmas (easily #1), Valentine’s Day (#2) and Mother’s Day (#3). Father’s Day is a distant #4, with only about two-thirds the card sales as for Mother’s Day.

It has been reported too that more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other Sunday of the year, and maybe more than on any other day period. For dads who say talk is cheap, well, so are the kids. People spend one-third more in total on Mother’s Day gifts than on Father’s Day gifts.

What would happen if Mother’s Day and Father’s Day fell on the same day? A survey asked that, and 78% of adult children said they’d celebrate mom over dad. Ouch. Some respondents said mom deserves the attention, some just feel that Mother’s Day is the bigger deal, and some think that dad wouldn’t mind while mom would guilt trip them.

Let’s face it, the history and the celebration of these days two days is telling. Mother’s Day was established before Father’s Day. It makes a bigger splash commercially. And it seems to resonate more emotionally.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all. On all counts give moms the win – and come Father’s Day, give dad the tie.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.

May 11, 2017

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