When my children were small, I would always look forward to the summer holidays although my friends would often laugh at me. How could I stand ‘the kids' being at home all the time and having to entertain them, 24/7? Fortunately, I had a spacious garden, in which they could play, and we would go to museums, parks, have play-dates with other children and sometimes go away for a week or two.
However, during term time one of the biggest stressors to me was the continual looking at my watch to make sure I was on time to do the never-ending ‘school run'. And so, when the summer arrived, it was a relief not to have to nag the children to do their homework, practise the piano, cello or violin, or rehearse their ‘time-tables'. So for me, summer was bliss.
And so now, some years later, you can imagine my surprise when I read of an article talking about SAD. Now I had always thought that this acronym stood for Seasonal Affected Disorder but I am now told it also stands for Summer Anxiety Disorder.
This, apparently, is a modern, and entirely self-inflicted condition that indicates anything from frustrated weariness to hysterical euphoria, punctuated by frantic texting and high blood pressure.
Symptoms include a bulging diary and calendar, children's play-dates and outings clashing with tickets for a concert you booked months ago with some friends. If any of this ‘rings a bell' for you, then you may well in fact be experiencing SAD and your diary has, in fact, taken control of you!
Life has become hectic and an oasis of calm is no longer the order of the day. In fact, one set of frenetic activity has been replaced by another. Children's expectations too have changed. Some are no longer happy to play in the garden, gather shells on the beach, make sandcastles or read a book.
Now they seem to need 12/7 computer games and constant activity. They need the latest technology, the latest apps, TV videos and iBox or Nintendo to play games. Whatever happened to creative play with each other, football, trampolining, play-acting and swimming?
Is it really that children can't play creatively today? Of course not! They can play as creatively as we used to do. Maybe it is just easier for the parent to put on the television during mealtimes to keep them quiet — but what happened to conversation?
Now, I am not saying it is easy when you have a large family. I have three children and I really do appreciate the challenges of family life. Trying to keep everyone happy, not arguing or getting on each other's nerves and keeping everyone occupied, is no mean task. But I wonder where all this technology is taking us.
Often the parent at home has to manage both children and spouse who will come in from work, tired and hungry. He, or she, will need to talk about their day just when you are putting the children to bed, changing a diaper, giving a feed and maybe not looking at your best. Obviously, this is always a situation that needs managing. Some do it successfully, others not.
For the working spouse, it is managing the need to ‘change gear' as they arrive home from work. They may have to be able to change roles from being a senior manager with a team waiting for their every instruction, to a family where no-one even turns their head as they walk in through the door!
The breadwinner becomes just another mouth to feed, another story to listen to and, sometimes, another catalogue of problems. But, hey, that's life! Having to balance home and work is never easy.
In addition, for children, there is the competition with their friends of the latest toys, and for parents, they may be trying to match their neighbours latest 4x4 or overseas holiday.
Modern living is challenging. There are stressors to handle and pressure to deal with.
The author is a BBC guest broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies – www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk