Becoming a Step-Mom: The Best Advice I Ever Received


As a little girl, you don’t dream of being a step-mom.  You dream of being a mom.  

That, at least, was my dream.  But God had different plans for me.  He first gave me the honor and joy of being a step-mom years before I would go on to have my own baby.  When I married my husband, I knew he came with stuff.  Baggage (me, too).  A divorce (me, too).  Childhood wounds (me, too).  And a child (not me too).  Zach was about 15 when I met him.  A typical moody, too-cool-for-school teenager with subtle attitude.  But he also had a softness about him.

I had no idea what I was doing and as my husband and I went to our therapist, sought out wisdom from our Christian community, and prayed a whole lot before we went on to get married, there was this one thing we had to handle delicately–Zach.  Zach was unraveled already because his mom and dad were getting divorced.  Anger, sadness, loneliness, feeling unloved… all the things we NEVER want our kids to feel, he was feeling.

And of course, I couldn’t help at times but think I was partly to blame.  And at times, I know he felt the same–it was this new person’s fault and I broke up his mom and dad.

As Rick and I prayed and did everything we could to ensure Zach felt safe, protected, loved and cared for, we knew we needed professional help to navigate this.  So we shifted our therapy sessions to unpack what it would look like to have a blended family.  After all, Zach would be living with us after we got married.

And I’ll never forget this day, these words from Paul, our beloved therapist.

Becoming a Step-Mom: The Best Advice I Ever Received Ann Ueno Contributor Miami Moms Blog

“Ann, you have one job with Zach.  One.  I have counseled many couples, studied this and believe if you can do this one thing, your relationship with Zach, as well as your marriage, will thrive.”

Okay, Paul, I’m listening…

“You are to be Zach’s friend.  And that is it.  Treat him as you would any of your friends.  You are not to discipline him.  You are only to love him like you would a friend.  Have fun with him, hang out with him and ensure your conversations are friendship-based, not parentally based.”

Hmmm.  This seems weird, right?  Maybe too easy?  Maybe not?

“Ann, Zach has a mom and a dad.  Rick and Brigitte are to do the parenting and disciplining.  You are to be his friend.  That’s it.  Let his parents be his parents and you be his friend.”

Guess what?  I took that advice.  I practiced that advice.  I prayed about it.  I struggled at times (ahem, bro, get your homework done… ahem, bro, clean up your gross mess in MY house… ahem, bro, respect your girlfriends… I could go on and on).  But I kept going back to Paul’s advice and my role.

I am Zach’s friend.

Becoming a Step-Mom: The Best Advice I Ever Received Ann Ueno Contributor Miami Moms Blog

People.  It has now been 10 years since I met Zach.  He went from liking me, to hating me, to not talking to me, to talking to me when he wanted something, to living with us, to moving back in with his mom.  Just like most blended families, this journey hasn’t been clean and easy.  It has been work and has taken loads of patience and prayer.

But, today, I can tell you this.  Zach and I have literally what I feel is the best step-son/step-mom relationship that could have possibly unfolded from our situation.  I have been his friend–not his mom–for a decade.  Yes, I give him advice like I would a friend.  Yes, I give him tough love like I would a friend.  But the real heavy stuff or when I get that ping that says, “Ann, NOT YOUR ROLE”–I lobby that over to Rick to handle.

Becoming a Step-Mom: The Best Advice I Ever Received Ann Ueno Contributor Miami Moms Blog

I call Zach.  He calls me.  We text and have wine together.  We laugh at how annoying his dad can be and marvel at how far we’ve come.  I try to coach him in his career.  I celebrate his wins.  He tells me if I’m being “extra” or some other phrase I have no idea the meaning of.

And I thank God for orchestrating such an amazing friendship.  Unique, special and coveted, this step-son/step-mom thing has blown me away.  I love Zach so much.  SO MUCH.  I love that I have gotten a front-row seat on his life the last 10 years and I cannot wait for what’s ahead!

So ladies, if you are out there and you are on the step-mom journey and haven’t tried this approach, I STRONGLY recommend it.


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A midwest gal raised in a farm town, eventually making her way to Chicago, NYC and back to Chicago, Ann has called Miami home for the last 4 years. She has spent 16 years in the hotel industry in digital marketing, currently Vice President at BCV Social (it's no secret that travel is a deep passion for her!). Simultaneously, Ann has pursued one of her dreams of becoming an Interior Designer by opening up her own firm, Ann Ueno Interior Design. She has been married to Rick for almost 8 years, step-mom to Zach and mom to Zoey and the adventure of motherhood continues to be one of God's greatest blessings in Ann's life! Ann serves and leads at Vous Church in Wynwood. She loves working out, writing, leading her Bible study and cooking. Her grandmother, mom and Julia Child are women who have inspired and shaped her life and she hopes through her own life and stories she will say, she can inspire and shape yours.


  1. Interesting approach. That didn’t work in my relationship with my now 12-year old stepdaughter but I feel like she really needed stability and structure from BOTH sides. Her mom and stepdad had it but her dad lacked it. NOW I feel like she’s way more structured and her anxious personality needed all hands in.

    Again, I’m happy this approach worked for you! I think this is wonderful and your pictures really portray you both as really good friends!

    With love and blessings, K

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