It’s fair to say that being a parent is bloody hard. Whether you’re a single mum or an attached dad or a legal guardian, the responsibility of being in charge of small human beings is massive and something you can rarely escape.
There have been times where even the smallest of parent-based responsibilities have freaked me out: I remember once writing a shopping list soon after Hux had been weaned and feeling totally overwhelmed with the pure responsibility of feeding two kids three healthy balanced meals a day. I mean, that’s not a huge task in itself, but when you factor in a 50-hour work week, a daily load of laundry, the constant picking up of LEGO and a healthy dose of sleep deprivation it can all seem a bit much.
I think if I didn’t have my short respite periods, my fortnightly weekends off or my trips away with the children, I’d go properly mad.
Which is why I always leap at the chance to relax and enjoy myself wherever possible. So when my friends at Optiwell said “hey, you’ve had a busy summer, fancy bringing the kids to celebrate our #ThankGoodness campaign at a gorgeous countryside hotel?” I said YES PLEASE WHERE DO I SIGN UP?!
We popped off in the car one sunny Thursday, motoring over to my old stomping ground of Worcestershire to meet up with a group of lovely bloggers and Optiwell representatives, ready to relax and have some fun.
You might remember me talking about Optiwell before: it’s a yoghurt drink new to the UK market, one our family has previously enjoyed at the breakfast table. At only 64 calories per 200ml it’s a really brilliant snack for busy women like me who may otherwise find themselves turning to Hobnobs or Haribo (guilty) for that 3pm hunger/boredom pang, and I was excited to learn more about it as a snack rather than a breakfast.
Arriving at The Elms in time for afternoon tea on the most gloriously warm day was such a treat. We were joined by Katie from Mummy Daddy and Me Makes Three, Aby from You Baby Me Mummy, Emma from Brummy Mummy of Two, Katie from Pouting in Heels and Sarah From Taming Twins. I have to say that whoever came up with that guestlist was inspired: though I knew only a couple of the other mums previously our little group got on like a house on fire, I don’t think we stopped laughing the entire time. It was really a delight to be in the company of such warm and inspiring women.
As soon as the cakes were demolished – including this gorgeous Raspberry Loaf cake with the Optiwell-inspired recipe from the talented Sarah – the children were despatched to play together in the orchard as the mums gossiped and laughed over more rounds of tea. We were duly collected for our spa treatments one at a time; pedicure for Hux, manicure for Elfie and the loveliest back and shoulder massage for me. I could feel the stress evaporating!
Soon after, our children were rounded up by The Elms’s nursery staff for a very special outdoors cooking lesson and feast in the last of the sunshine, as we looked on and enjoyed how happily they all played together. Having visited a Mark Warner resort this year – arguably one of the best holidays for childcare I’ve ever seen – I was interested to see what nursery staff at a UK-based hotel would be like.
I was nothing but impressed at the standard of childcare here, the children were engaged and happy with all the activities laid on for them and I was amazed that such brilliant childcare facilities were available at such a high-end British hotel.
After the children’s tea it was off to check-in and get ready for dinner. Our room was magnificent, Hux: “our bath has PAWS!!”, and there was much excitement-slash-debate over who would get to sleep in the super-cool camp bed in our room (Hux won). It’s always brilliant to not have to compromise on luxury when you stay in family-friendly hotels in the UK, and I thought The Elms thoroughly hit the mark with their well-appointed rooms, comfortable communal areas and brilliant facilities.
In what felt like the absolute height of decadence, I again dropped the children off with the nursery nurses for a slumber party with their new friends in their PJs. While they ate buckets of sweets, gave each other glitter tattoos and enjoyed a disco and a movie we were to relax over a three course meal and wine. HEAVEN. There were even candles, you guys! Between the other mums on the trip and the lovely Optiwell ladies I could not have been in better company, and my salmon starter, steak main course and chocolate pudding was thoroughly enjoyed.
Whizzing my sugar-high children to bed for 9.30pm I happily sunk into that paw-footed bath with a glass of wine and a couple of vintage episodes of Peep Show. Perfection.
Breakfast the next day was just as fun with the kids tearing around the banquet table after each other as we drank yet more tea and enjoyed each other’s company (and the odd bottle of Optiwell!). The weather had turned so the planned kids’ teddy bear treasure hunt was moved inside – just as well as Elfie and her new cronies had found all the clues the day before.
We were treated to sandwiches and more lovely cake for lunch, and before long it was time to say a sad goodbye to our new friends. We were waved off with a beautiful goody bag for each of us, very full tummies and a head full of happy memories. I am so thankful that my job allows us to have experiences like this and Optiwell truly treated us like Queens (and princesses and princes); the experience of this beautiful hotel and such wonderful company was just what we needed to conclude our lovely summer.
The Elms is part of the Luxury Family Hotels group, who have properties all over the UK. In partnership, Optiwell and the Luxury Family Hotels Group are offering one lucky winner £350 to spend on a stay in one of their beautiful hotels! All you have to do is enter below to be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!
Competition ends at midnight on 28th September 2016. The prize will be administered by Optiwell/Luxury Family Hotels group and there is no cash alternative.
Huge thank-yous to Optiwell for working with MTT and treating us to this magnificent stay at The Elms.