Latter-day Saint Life

Host of ‘Sunday on Monday’ podcast discusses the ‘strange land’ of becoming a stepmom

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Tammy Uzelac Hall, host of LDS Living’s Sunday on Monday podcast, was a 34-year-old institute teacher when she began dating a widower with two little girls. Everything about this situation was unknown territory and so, as she was teaching a class and read Abraham 1:16, these words stood out: “Into a strange land which thou knowest not of.”

“I was like, ‘That is me,’ I am going into a strange land that I know nothing of. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. And I started to cry during this lesson.” But as she and her students continued on, she read in verse 18, “I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee.”

“And I just thought, ‘This is all I have to go on. … The Spirit bore witness to me at that moment, ‘I will lead you by my hand, you are going to be just fine. Just take this leap and go into this land that you know not of and I promise you blessings,” she says.

On this week’s All In podcast, Tammy shared the ups and downs of marrying and immediately becoming a mother.

Listen to the full episode by clicking here or by listening in the player below. You can also read a full transcript of the interview here.

The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.

Morgan Jones: Speaking of strange lands, Tammy, you became a stepmom to two little girls who were grieving the loss of their mom, which is something I can't imagine at my age. So you’ve been really open about how hard that transition was, what got you through that? Or what would be your advice to others who are in a similar situation?

Tammy Uzelac Hall: Well, first of all, strange land is a perfect word to describe that, because what in the world? I can remember truly—the first day that my husband went to work and left me with the two little girls, I organized the spice cupboard. That was the highlight of my day. That was like the most productive I felt I had done—I didn't consider raising kids as productive. It just hadn't even registered in my brain that that was something that was important. It was just like I’m babysitting all day, and then I cleaned a house.

And so it was really hard. So hard, in fact that … I mean, the first couple of years, it took a while for the oldest daughter Anna to call me "Mom," which is fine. It should. It was really, really weird. And then our second daughter, she has mild cerebral palsy. I can remember at one point, she said to her older sister, "Why don't you just call Tammy 'mom,' like, what's your deal? Why won't you just say, 'mom'?" And Anna’s like, "Because I'm not ready to yet."

And my husband said to the younger daughter who has cerebral palsy, "Well, why do you call her mom?" And she said, "Because Mom only has three letters. And Tammy has a lot more." That’s the best, like I love that. That’s great. Yeah, mom’s only three letters much easier to say, it’s only one syllable.

So I think a lot of my pride got in the way. And I was a brat. I'll just say it, like, I just was. It was really hard. I had a couple of little temper tantrums along the way where I thought being single was so much easier. And it was. And these kids aren’t obeying me and they don’t love me and they love their mom more than me—well, of course they do.

And it kind of became this battle where in my mind, the thoughts came, "They should love you more, you do more for her than their mom is doing right now because she’s passed away." And Satan really did do a number on me to the point where I became really depressed, … and started crying to Heavenly Father and I just said, "I gotta get out of here. Like, I cannot do this anymore. This is not what I signed up for. And I'm a terrible mom. And these girls hate me and I don't like them. This isn’t going to work out."

And my husband came home from work and found me in the closet. I don't know how long I’d been there. In my mind, I’m like, "There I was a couple of minutes, but I may have been there for a couple hours." Alright, Morgan, I'm not going to lie. It was awful.

And he walked in the closet. He’s like, "What’s going on?" And I stood up and I’m just sobbing. And I just said, "I can’t do this anymore. Like I have to leave. I don’t think I’m cut out for this." And I just started, you know, sobbing and crying. And of course, in my mind, I’m looking for a quick getaway, and what clothes am I going to pack and what am I going to need, and I probably need cash, you know, like everything in my head.

Watch the Church's video of Tammy's experience below.

And I cried, and my husband just looked at me, and he put his hand out to shake my hand and he said, "Well, I want to thank you for giving it a shot." And while most people think that is the rudest answer, I laughed so hard, because that is my favorite thing about my husband, he makes me laugh every single day. And we laughed, and then he hugged me. He’s like, "You're a great mom. You’re going to figure this out. Of course. It’s hard. He’s like, it’s hard for me too, being a dad. I mean, parenting is the worst." He just really empathized.

I decided to take it to scripture, and I just started reading all the different ways to feel the Spirit because I felt like I hadn’t felt the Spirit in a long time. And I went to Galatians, 5:22 and 23 that lists all the fruits of the Spirit. And two words stood out to me—longsuffering and gentleness. And the Lord was like, "You need that." And so I have prayed for longsuffering and gentleness, probably every day of being a mom. Even after having my own two children who I thought it'd be so much easier to raise—it’s not.

I needed long-suffering and gentleness and I think that the Spirit has helped me to be a better mom and to be a better me, because, Morgan, you lose yourself. It’s really kind of scary to be you and be awesome and be Morgan, and then you have kids and you're not Morgan anymore. You’re a syllable word, you’re "Mom." I know you should find everything about life so beautiful in that, but it’t wasn't for me. I missed single me. I still do sometimes. She’s a really great gal.

Morgan Jones: Yeah. Well, I think you do such a good job of describing that and that experience. And I think people have probably picked up on this already in this conversation, but there are two things that I love about you, Tammy. And I think they’re things other people love about you, and why they listen to you on Sunday on Monday, is because you're funny, and you're honest. And I think that those two things are really refreshing. And I wondered, why do you think those two things, humor and honesty, are so important in our efforts to be disciples of Christ? Or why have they been important to you?

Tammy Uzelac Hall: That's such a good question. You know, laughter is my love language, for sure. And I know, it's not one of them in the five love languages—I made it up. But if people can make me laugh, I will love you automatically. And I just think laughter comes by way of being honest and laughing at ourselves.

I think if we can really just be transparent about who we are and what we're struggling with, and talk about it in an honest way, and then we can laugh at ourselves. Then I think it allows for us to do the same for other people when they're stupid. And so when people do things that annoy me, I can just go wait a minute. We're all human. And I think that is what is so important about just the honesty, the rawness, and I really like people that are like that.

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