Angela May Guerrant is an eco-crusader-executive-poet; she's a lover of music, herbs, Earth, and a runner -- but a mama first. As vice president of sales at Gaia Herbs, she leads a top-tier team of spirited professionals for the company renowned to industry insiders for a devotion to quality and sustainable practices. For someone who believes enlightened consumer choices and herbal traditions can change the world, this is the dream job. Angela lives in the hill country outside of Austin, TX with fiancé Jeremiah McElwee, an executive at Whole Foods Market. Family life is sweet if not a little complex for this power couple. Little Praia is their first child, but Angela takes her role as step-mom (to two tow-haired darlings from Jer's first marriage) with dignity and courage.
Angela May with Praia Rose McElwee, born 9/28/2011
How does she do it all? I caught up with Angela in one of her rare free moments to discuss life as an eco-Mom, running the premiere herbal company in North America and just how she juggles the two.
Zoe Helene: Why is being an 'eco mom' as opposed to a 'conventional mom' so important?
Angela May Guerrant: Making conscious choices about our impact on planet and people is not only the right path for our collective future, but it's also crucial for planting the seeds of eco-awareness in our little ones. And whether that means using a chemical free shampoo, or feeding them organic foods -- our choices have power.
ZH: Big job.
AMG: It's a crazy big job, being a mom. These amazing little people that you're responsible for are listening to you and watching you for their cues on how to interact with the world with integrity and grace. You want to protect their future.
ZH: Has anything changed for you in terms of how you see the health of our vulnerable planet?
AMG: It has become much more personal for me. I find myself thinking about all the fantastic adventures I want Praia and her sisters to have, and hoping that the beautiful natural places in the world are still there in thirty years.
ZH: Talk to me about the step-mom thing.
AMG: Yes... the step mom thing... totally get the need to call it that. I have really come to embrace my role as step-parent. Not as a 'second mom,' or 'third parent,' but rather as an adult who is blessed to be part of two young lives. It's a pretty special role, actually. I get to be a listener, role model, hug-giver, bump and bruise kisser, encourager of free thinking and spirited question asking, and ultimately, supporter of their relationship with their Daddy, who I love dearly. And yes, I take care of them when they are with us in the same ways I would for Praia.
ZH: How are the girls feeling about their baby sister?
AMG: Lorrea (6) and Serah (4) are both such wonderful big sisters to Praia and she adores them. She is always happiest when they are with us. No one makes her laugh like Serah, and she already idolizes Lorrea.
ZH: How is the new daddy doing?
AMG: Jeremiah sees fatherhood as his most important job. Each time I see him with any of our girls, I'm so grateful that I get to be a parent with him.
ZH: Many new eco moms are raving about home birth. So... why home birth?
AMG: I could go on and on! After having our daughter at home, I cannot imagine it any other way. Praia was born in our bed. Within an hour of her birth I had taken a shower in my own bathroom, gotten back into our freshly made bed, and was eating an organic meal. Two hours after she was born we were alone in our house enjoying the wonder of this new little miraculous being.
ZH: Why don't more women chose homebirth?
AMG: Less than one percent of American women give birth at home. I honestly believe that if more women knew how calm and safe giving birth at home could be, they would choose it over the hospital. Yes there are complicated cases where the support of modern medical technology is totally necessary -- and a hospital birth is always the right choice under those circumstances -- but for women who have a healthy, normal pregnancy, homebirth can be a beautiful and empowering experience.
ZH: What's the most challenging thing about motherhood, so far?
AMG: Oh, wow. Honestly, having to adjust my own expectations of "doing it all," and learning to be more kind and patient with myself. My best days are those that I allow myself to love what IS, instead of trying to force what won't be. She will only be this small and precious once, and I have many years to have days filled with everything else that I don't have time for now.
ZH: What are some of the sweetest things?
AMG: The way she wakes up singing in her bed in the morning, the way she grabs my face when she gets really excited and "kisses" me by slobbering all over my cheeks, how much she loves her sisters and her daddy, the way her bottom lip sticks out when she is really, really studying something, how her laughter is contagious and makes our whole family completely crack up. How determined she is when she wants something. Her smell. Everything.
ZH: She sounds delightful.
AMG: I have been amazed at how bright she is already! She communicates her needs and wants so clearly, if you simply pay attention, and she has an incredibly active mind. She's spirited, loves wind on her face, interacting with new people, playing with our two cats (they would call it "harassing") and is generally a very happy little person. She also loves music and will "sing" or talk when she is having a really good time. She is also quite determined and very stubborn. Gee...wonder where she got that from?
ZH: How are you doing with juggling work and new motherhood?
AMG: It's not easy, that's for certain. I think any new mama would tell you that. I love what I do, and I love my family, and in order for me to have sustainable joy, the two have to be balanced. I try to be efficient and realistic about my goals for each day, and I do work at night after I put Praia to bed, even though I long for sleep. I've also been known to do a conference call while nursing, and have typed my fair share of emails one handed while breastfeeding. You do what you need to do. It gets easier.
ZH: Working for Gaia Herbs must be so gratifying. Many would call it a dream job.
AMG: I love how caring for people and planet is so much a part of who we are as a company. I am especially passionate about the 'Meet Your Herbs' traceability program because it helps people learn where each herb in their bottle comes from, and how it was tested for purity and potency on its journey. I also love that we cultivate dozens of medicinal herbs on our 250-acre certified organic farm and that we grow vegetables for the staff and community.
ZH: Your team is noticeably wonderful.
AMG: I've worked with most of my sales leaders at multiple companies now. They are far more than my professional community and team at this point. We've seen each other through weddings, divorces, births. I'm continually grateful for their passion for their jobs and their respective teams, and they inspire me as a leader.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pinkle Toes Photography (pinkletoes.com)