When Buying Cards is just so Hard

Some people walk into card shops, choose cards that jump out at them and are on their way within a matter of minutes. But sometimes buying cards is just so hard, and something that I have come to dread at various times of my life.

When I was a child, growing up, I spent so long choosing the perfect cards. Ones that had lots of words in that said exactly what I wanted to say, ones with a picture that suited the person perfectly. But then I grew up, life happened, and buying cards just wasn’t the same anymore.

When Buying Cards is just so Hard

You see, when you have difficult relationships with those who should be closest to you, and who you used to spend so long choosing just the perfect card for, it can be so emotional trying to find a card that still fits the person – and still fits what you want to say.

Often, you don’t want to send a card, you don’t want to seem like you care – but you know you have to send a card as it’s an easier option in the long run than not sending one at all. But, when cards are aimed at the best and most favourite people in your lives, the people that mean most, what happens when you have to buy a card, through obligation rather than choice, for someone who should be such a bigger part of your life and instead doesn’t mean that much, doesn’t instil positive thoughts and instead makes you feel indifference where there used to be emotion?

If you need to buy a card for an acquaintance you don’t know very well and don’t feel much towards, but care enough to send them a simple Happy Birthday you will find plenty of cards that say just that. But, what if you need to send a card to your Mother, your Father or another close relative and you just want to say Happy Birthday and nothing more?

There are cards to the best Mum in the world. There are cards to a Mum who is so much better than all the rest and there are cards to people who are just like a Mum to you, one in a million and a shiny star as far as Mums are concerned. But try and find one that just says Happy Birthday Mum, as simple as possible, with no real feelings but still has the relation’s name on and you’ll either not be able to find one or you’ll have just one or two to pick from – usually with a design on the front that will make the recipient feel like you have terrible taste in cards.

I spent years buying cards for people who used to mean the world to me but where those ties had been shattered, leaving heartache and sadness where love had once been. I would stand in the card shop staring at the rows of cards about the most amazing Mums, Dads, Aunties, Uncles – even neighbours – and trying to find a card that said the least, a card that purely said Happy Birthday, Happy Mothers Day, Happy Fathers Day or Merry Christmas without the huge sentimental impact that these cards typically have. I wanted to wish them those things without an outpouring of love that just wasn’t there.

I would stand in those card shops for hours, looking at the cards with tears in my eyes, dragging up all the emotion from years gone by and having thoughts flood to the front of my mind that only surfaced once a year. It’s similar when someone dies, someone who really was like a Mum to you, or even your actual parents. Not needing to buy that card that you loved choosing, finding the perfect words and knowing that the card would be just right for them – but not being able to buy it. Or buying it anyway, knowing it will never be sent or it will be left at a meaningful spot, a graveside or other symbolic place, never for them to physically read.

I stopped buying cards for some people quite a few years ago now but even today, going into a card shop and seeing all the rows of cards to amazing people makes me feel sad. I’m happy standing there, choosing a card for Dave, helping the children buy cards to their Daddy or Grandparents but there is always still a twinge of emotion at the cards I will never buy or send. The cards my children will never write in and the cards that just don’t have a place in my life.

Buying cards is such a lovely thing, sending someone a card to let them know you care, that you’re thinking of them, that you love them and that you are so glad they’re in your life. But sometimes, buying cards can be just so incredibly hard.


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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  1. I tend to get all family cards hand made and the write something myself inside. My pet hate though is ‘Mum and Mother’ cards – a nightmare when you have a Mam!

    Cat x

  2. This really struck a chord with me. I didn’t speak to my Mum for five years. Mother’s Day was particularly hard, I’d stand in the card shop with tears in my eyes. No, she wasn’t ‘The Best Mum in the World’ and I wasn’t ‘Eternally grateful for all her love and support.’ ~then one year I picked up a card, very plain with little sentiment. I had to give it to her sister as I didn’t even know where she lived. I got a letter back, and tentatively we rebuilt our relationship. Only to have her torn away by cancer a couple of years later. I still buy cards for my family though, with five children it can be expensive!

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