For the last 10 years Lydia Tett Olet, a mother of three who resides in London, has been raising her children single-handedly. She shares with us the joys and challenges of parenting in a foreign land
Lydia Tett Olet chuckles at a vivid memory of her younger self declaring to her friends that she wouldn’t have children. Today, she is a mother of three lovely girls; Dennese, 20, Larissa, 14 and Sinead, 12.
“People couldn’t believe it when I became pregnant and gave birth to Dennese. I wasn’t keen on having children at the time,” says Lydia who resides in London.
However, all that changed when she held her baby for the first time. “I was happy and would think to myself, Oh my God, I just gave birth to this little human. But it was also stressful because I didn’t know how to breastfeed or wash her. I kept asking the nurses what I was supposed to do,” she remembers. Luckily, her elder sister was there to help.
She had two more children afterwards. By then, Lydia was still living with the father of her children, but later on, the couple separated. “I wasn’t officially married, but my ex and I lived together for 17 years before calling it quits,” she says.
It has been 10 years since their break-up and although being a single parent is incredibly demanding, she makes sure her children know that they are a priority. Given that their father is not involved in their lives, out of his own volition, Lydia has to play both roles and ensure that her children do not lack.
Lydia has single-handedly raised her children and provided for them. Her firstborn is now in college. They are growing up fast in a different culture and she knows that she needs to be on the lookout and guide them. For instance, when it comes to topics about dating and sex, she does not shy off.
“I know my children have been born and raised in a different culture, but when it comes to dating, I’m still a bit old school. I once told my daughter (Dennese) not to go out with a boy when she was 16, for a good reason and she cried so much. I think I broke her little heart, but she got over it,” she says.
Dealing with teenagers at a time when they are budding and curious can be a tough thing to navigate and Lydia acknowledges this. With the love and respect she has for her children, she tries to bring them closer. “I value our relationship and in order to handle these talks well, I seek out God’s guidance and pray for wisdom.
Just as I talked to them about menstruation, I’m not coy on the sex topic,” she says. Every time they get to this talk, her children burst into fits of laughter at the sound of her Kenyan accent, which they find hilarious.
She understands that her girls are different in personalities and each will have varied experiences and hopes that they will be well equipped with knowledge on how to be safe. She hopes her children will come to her for guidance since she ensures communication lines are open and discourages lying.
When it comes to discipline, Lydia plays a different ball game than her parents did in the past. She has come to realise that dialogue and trust bear fruits. Her children understand what is expected of them.
They know that every action comes with consequences and if they don’t stick to the terms, then they face repercussions. “I once didn’t hold a birthday party for one of my daughters for indiscipline. They are, however, careful and don’t get out of hand,” she says.
Raising African children in the west is not easy, especially as a single parent. Her children have faced discrimination, but she teaches them not to let it get to them. “I make sure they feel loved, validated and know that they are beautiful and enough,” she says.
Lydia is an actress and an entrepreneur who founded a festival dubbed Kenya and Friends in The Park. She is also a TV presenter and an African arts and cultural teacher in different schools in London. This means she is constantly occupied, but it doesn’t come in the way of her family time.