An Interview with Dammy Olatoye

Interview Questions
1. Tell us more about yourself and how life has been so far?
I live in the United Kingdom with my husband and three-year-old (going on thirteen!) son. Although littered with challenges, I can’t deny that life has been good. God has been gracious to me and my family. I recently lost my father-in-law during this whole pandemic business and I can say that Psalm 23 verse 4 is true. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, loss, disappointment, and grief, His presence has been unmistakable and undeniable. I always joke that I have two basic skills in life – reading and writing and that’s pretty much what I do as a professional. My academic background is in Politics, International Relations, and Global Diplomacy. I’m currently a Business Development officer (bid writer) by day and a blogger in my spare time. I love to learn because I think it’s important to be able to hold your own in any sphere you find yourself in. That doesn’t mean I am a walking encyclopedia but I am very good friends with Google 😊. Like everyone, I’m learning to adapt to the new normal of a Covid-19 lifestyle and also trying to launch out into the deep with my blog and other writing projects I have roaming around my very busy mind.
2. What was the most unexpected thing about marriage?
Hmmm…I’ve only been married five years – it’s a lot of mileage but I’m still a ‘learner’ when it comes to marriage. However, I’d say the most surprising thing I’ve discovered about marriage is how fickle feelings of love are. I thought I’d always feel overwhelming emotions of love towards my husband every single day and moment but five years in and I’ve discovered that’s not the case. Although I know I deeply love my husband and still experience many moments where we are gushing with expressive love for each other, but for the most part, I have learned to honour and cherish my husband not because I feel like it but because I choose too. I guess I’m learning the true meaning of that phrase ‘love is a verb.’ Feelings are great but what keeps the beautiful and complex machine of marriage oiled and moving are those little but conscious decisions we make to honour and respect one another.
3. Marriage is about loving our partners unconditionally, how do you keep in step with the spirit to love, when it is difficult to love.
I guess this question is linked to the one above. Not to sound impractical and overly spiritual but I do ask the Spirit’s guidance in prayer to help me love my spouse unconditionally. I don’t always get it right but I think part of unconditional love is also owning up to your imperfections and seeking reconciliation always. You’ll find the Spirit applying the brakes on your tongue, feelings, thoughts and stopping them from spiraling out of control. Something else I’m trying to do is to get into the habit of recalling and highlighting all the amazing and generous things my husband has done for me in the past. When misunderstandings erupt, it’s easy to develop amnesia and the devil is very good at flagging all your partner’s flaws at that moment in time. It’s not always easy but I’m working on maximizing my husband’s strengths and overlooking his flaws. The funny thing is we tend to do this for friends very easily. Ask yourself, how many times have you overlooked a friend’s flaws and stayed in a relationship with them? But when it comes to our spouses, we tend to feast on their flaws which is quite unfair and very much unlike Christ.
4. Is there anything like a “perfect” marriage?
I’ve seen, heard of many good marriages. No doubt there are excellent marriages out there but I also know that there are marriages that are in a current state of disrepair not for the lack of trying but due to societal and structural constraints for example culture, poverty, ignorance, etc. In my opinion, perfection is relative. What works for the family next door might not suit my family dynamic. What ‘Joan’ loves about her husband might be irritating to me. Will I then say their marriage is not perfect? Absolutely not. I think any couple working to build their marriage according to the template set in scriptures (see 1Corinthians 13:4-8, Ephesians 5:22-33) is on their way to creating a robust and beautiful structure that will withstand the storms of life to come. So, I guess the question to ask yourself is not ‘is my marriage perfect?’ but ‘can my marriage withstand the unpredictable storms of life?’ There are many perfect, ‘well beaten’ and exquisitely filtered marriages on social media but how many of those marriages are strong and sturdy enough to act as an ark when the floods come? I’ve decided to quit chasing a picture-perfect marriage and build something rugged that’ll last for generations.
5. What were the challenges growing spiritually as a wife and a mother?
I would say time is the biggest challenge. You were just about managing to spend time to pray for yourself and your needs, now you find yourself having to add children to your prayer requests and their future needs as well. Also, being a mother means you’re constantly needed – by your partner, children, parents, friends, etc. It’s very easy to become so depleted spiritually, emotionally, and physically after giving so much to others to the point where your relationship with God suffers. It’s something to be careful about. I have had to learn how to carve out time for myself to spend in prayer, study, worship and rest. If I’m not whole, I cannot function well and I’m of no use to my husband and child.
6. Sometimes, motherhood can be “fearful”, how do you overcome this fear?
Like with every fear, you have to trust God. I do remember feeling quite anxious after just having my child because this tiny human being did not come with a manual whatsoever! I literally had never been down the road of motherhood or nurturing anything whatsoever. I never had a pet, I was the last child in the family and was rarely around young children growing up. I was up the creek without a paddle so to say. The fear was real. I just want to say to any new mothers out there reading this, the nervousness you feel is very normal but don’t allow it to cripple you. With the support and encouragement of my husband and my mum, I remember the initial fog of fear lifting as I began to understand that motherhood is a calling and if God has so graciously given me the privilege then everything I need to excel at is within me. The one very practical thing my husband told me that freed me from a lot of my fears was that I did not have to do everything. He point-blank told me my responsibility was to eat, look after the baby, and sleep whenever possible. The pile of laundry, dirty dishes, and other house chores were not to be on my radar. I cannot explain how much that freed me. As somebody who was grappling with motherhood, I feared doing everything wrong. I wanted to do everything perfectly well even though I was only averaging about 2 hours of sleep every night. So, one way I have overcome the fears that come with motherhood is to just accept that I can’t do everything. I can’t die on every hill. Pick a task/challenge for the day and work on that. It’s not always easy to ignore everything else that needs your attention but we need to learn that as mothers otherwise every time you don’t complete your bloated to-do list the devil is waiting to overload you with the burden of guilt and that just exacerbates your fears further. Trust God, make peace with the fact that you’re a limited person with two hands, and learn from other people – motherhood is not a novel idea. Yes, your child is unique but there are billions of mothers out there that you can learn general principles from.
7. It can be sometimes very challenging to teach children about the word of God, how do you do it?
Well, I’m not sure I have a lot of experience with this as my child is still quite young but I think so far what we have done that works really well is embedding the word of God and things of God in general, into our routine. Our day starts and ends with prayer – everyone in the family has to say a prayer. We’ve taught our three-year-old a simple prayer template which he uses every day to pray for himself and others. Asking him to pray is not a struggle, in fact, God helps you if you don’t let him say his prayer! Children are quite innocent and excited to learn – parents should take advantage of that early and embed teaching them about God at an early age. There are loads of child-friendly Bibles, Bible-based storybooks, colouring books and shows that I’ve found helpful. Also, if the children’s department in your church gives memory verses, encourage your child to memorise those verses. As we’re currently finding out, it can be a really nice thing to do as a family.
8. How does prayer help keep the balance in the family?
I really cannot overemphasize the role of prayer in the family. I always feel that it is the glue holding a family together. In prayer, both parties recognize that they are insufficient in themselves and appeal to the greater One for help. Prayer has a way of uniting and humbling people. I find that the more I pray for my spouse, the more I understand and appreciate the fact that he is an individual with hopes and dreams who is intrinsically valuable to God. I might not have connections in the earthly corridors of power, but I can always appeal to my father in heaven for divine favour and help for my husband as he strives to fulfill his dreams.
9. “Bloom where you are planted, share your thoughts?
I guess the sentiment behind the statement, which is to maximize the opportunities you are presented with, is very valid. It’s very easy to get carried away with searching for the next big and shiny thing whilst trivializing the current successes we have. I’ve fallen victim to this mindset too and it’s something to be watchful about particularly in this day and age where people’s successes are not so private anymore. It’s easy to think the grass is greener on their side of the fence because of someone’s Linkedin update telling you of their new role. I’m learning that the secret to contentment is to praise and celebrate others whilst also acknowledging and affirming that your lane (though narrow and not so smooth) is a valid one. As they say, you’ve got to learn to slay in your lane and clap for others while they do the same.
10. What are your views on this statement, “Your husband is your God-given helper”?
I agree with the statement. From the examples I gave in my previous responses, it’s clear that my husband has been a steadying force in my life. I’m very fortunate to have a partner who is very hands-on with household chores. However, it’s not enough to affirm or believe that your spouse is your God-given helper, you have to let them be your God-given helper. You have to be comfortable with exposing your weakness so they can be your strength in that area. My husband is an accountant and he’s great with budgets and planning our finances. Whilst I’m not necessarily a reckless spender (I might have one or two pairs of shoes more than I need 😊) but I’m not so good at keeping track of my spending. I’ve wholeheartedly let my husband do his Excel magic with our budgets and it has saved me a whole load of stress!
11. With regards to parenting, is there a temptation of striving in your own strength.
Absolutely. Again, as I alluded to earlier, there is the temptation to want to do everything well at once even when no one is demanding it of you. Like with everything in life, you need to develop a healthy rhythm and pace that works for you and your context and do it all in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. One thing I’ve learned about the Holy Spirit is that there is no conversation too banal, no request too trivial that you can’t take to Him. He is your helper and He has put people and resources in your life to help you. There really is no need to be a lone ranger or a martyr, there’s plenty of help available.
12. Does your faith influence everything in your life?
Absolutely, it does. My faith is my frame of reference and filter through which I see the world and my personal circumstances. My faith is deeply woven into my identity. If you manage to extricate me from God then I wouldn’t be me. I don’t know what you’ll get, but it won’t be Dammy. My faith in God has to influence everything I do – it is the only rational response to the unconditional love of a God who searched me out when I was physically in the church but spiritually out in the wilderness. A God that big and gracious cannot be put in a cage and only let loose on Sunday mornings. Just the thought of that makes me shudder. Yes, my faith influences everything in my life. IT HAS TO!
13. As a mom, how do you prioritize time in the word?
Like I mentioned before, I have had to intentionally carve out personal time in the Word especially in the evenings after my child has gone to bed. I’ve invested in purchasing Bible studies by godly Bible teachers which help to give structure to my time in the word. Sometimes, it’s not that we don’t spend time in the Word but that the time is not structured – we didn’t take any notes, no meditation, no action points, etc. It’s good to be spontaneous but I find that to have a rich time in God’s Word, I need a plan or some kind of study guide to help give structure and direction to my reading. I also listen to a lot of messages and podcasts – these can be on even when I’m going about my daily tasks. Although listening to a message/podcast is not necessarily the same as reading the Word yourself, it’s still very enriching for your spiritual life.
14. Getting time in the word of God, is a challenge for most mothers. What words of encouragement do you have for moms struggling in this area?
Intentionally carve out time for yourself during points in the day where it’s quiet. This could be early morning or late at night – it all depends on what works for you. Start small – don’t try to do an hour at a stretch. Get some structure – this could be a Bible reading plan (there are plenty of those on Bible apps) or a study guide that has a workbook where you can take notes as you go along. If you’re really struggling to find time for personal study, consider having a conversation with your partner (if you have one) and explain the situation and what you need. Both of you can come up with an arrangement that frees up a certain time of the day for your personal study.
15. What are the benefits of rejoicing in everyday circumstances?
I just want to preface the rest of this response by saying that rejoicing in every circumstance does not necessarily mean walking around with a grin permanently plastered on your face. Life is hard, there’s no denying that. The mood in my house in the immediate aftermath of my father-in-law’s passing was intense and thick with grief, sorrow, and sadness but there were pockets in the day where we just thanked God for his life and the privilege of being a part of his legacy. We were able to thank God because we trust that nothing slips through His fingers and that even our greatest pain can be redeemed for amazing gain. Rejoicing in everyday circumstances proves to God that we are indeed grateful and that we are not just after His hand (i.e. what He can do for us) but seeking after His face. Rejoicing in everyday circumstances helps us develop resilience that is deeply rooted in what we know about God and the fact that His thoughts towards us are good even if prevailing circumstances are not so good. Rejoicing despite adverse conditions shows that we are people of undying hope who take seriously the words of Christ in John 16:33(AMPC); “…in the world, you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

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