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Paths To Motherhood: Katie Gong On Becoming A Stepmom

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Photographed by Sandra Ajanaku

Although stepmothers might not get their due in Disney films and other Hollywood flicks, there’s no doubt the role is a huge and important one for women and children around the world. While it’s not without its trials and tribulations (like any type of parenthood), there can be a lot of joy in being a stepmom, too, as San Francisco-based woodworker Katie Gong demonstrates. Stepmom to 10-year-old Elanor (whom Katie describes as “hilarious, smart, sensitive, and so witty”), the creative opens up about her journey to motherhood through step-motherhood, which began just a few years ago.

Did you always know you wanted to be a mother?
“To be honest, I always thought that if it were to happen, it would just happen and if it didn’t, I’d be okay, too. I have a bunch of nieces and nephews and always loved caring for them, so I always wanted to, but finding the right time and the right partner was always an issue for me. I had a conversation with a friend about a week before meeting Brett, and I told her that I’d be open to dating someone with a child, and as soon as I put it out into the universe Brett showed up.”

What was your view of step-motherhood before becoming a stepmom?
“I didn’t know a lot. I was basically gathering what I know from pop culture and Disney films—all step-parents are evil and will make you a slave or kill your father or something crazy like that. Or Stepmom the movie, where I should just be like Julia Roberts, and be a cool stepmom…”

When you started dating Brett, what were your thoughts when you found out he had a child?
“I knew before we started dating that he had a child, so I was mentally prepared for it. I just wanted to meet her because the way Brett beamed about her. She sounded cool as hell and turns out she is.”

How did your relationship with Elanor develop over time?
“I think that I had a pretty easy road with Elanor. She could have been totally hard on me and gone into classic mode (a.k.a. ‘I hate any woman with my dad that isn’t my mom!’), but she was the opposite. She was warm and kind and really welcoming. The first thing we did was go for a bike ride together and she wanted to ride just with me and made her dad go on ahead. Don’t get me wrong, we have had our battles, too, but for the most part she’s been great and easy to build a relationship with. I made a conscious decision with Elanor to go all in. To care for her as if she is my own. Once I made that decision, it was easy to take care of her. She calls me KK, and that is just perfect with me. She has a great mom and I don’t ever want to take away from that relationship. We have our own special thing together that fits for us.”

What have been the toughest parts of being a step mother? And the most rewarding parts?
“The toughest, I think, is being the last to know certain things. Brett and his ex-wife parent together, which is great, but sometimes it’s hard for me to either not have a say or to find things out super last minute. The most rewarding is really helping and seeing Nor develop into her strong and confident self.”

What about step motherhood that you know now, do you wish you would have known early on?
“It can sometimes feel like a selfless job, but it does have a big payoff in the end. I would tell a woman about to become a stepmom to be strong, don’t try to compete, and just be yourself. Oh, and have fun.”

What advice would you give to a biological mother sharing motherhood duties with a stepmother?
“I would say, try to be aware of the stepmom’s feelings. They should both try to put themselves in each other’s shoes, because at then end of the day it’s another person giving love and care to your child. Everyone can always use more love and support.”

For more on Katie and Elanor, follow along on Katie’s Instagram feed.

Shot on location at The Assembly, a new wellness center in San Francisco featuring Katie Gong’s woodwork.

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