We are constantly bombarded with productivity hacks – tips and tricks on how to cross everything off our to-do lists while also being a person/partner/colleague/parent. Here at AMASS, though, we are far more interested in how people get undone. We want to know the nightly rituals that happen after 5PM, from the cocktails drunk to the books read. To us, it’s those small moments behind the scenes that really count, because in them lies a glimpse into who we want to be.
This time around, we chatted with AMASS Co-Founder and Master Distiller Morgan McLachlan about the ways she copes with her busy work schedule while balancing motherhood (and how she carves out time for nature in between).
Between being a new mom and building a botanics brand, you’re busier than ever. How are you coping with your packed schedule?
I think I’m doing very well, considering the circumstances. I’m definitely experiencing a special type of exhaustion, but I haven’t had a typical COVID experience in that I’ve been busier than ever before. Some things get sacrificed, mostly personal time, but it’s okay. As my grandfather says, if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.
What are the rituals you practice to take care of yourself?
Between being a new mom and working full time, I don’t exactly have a lot of bandwidth for some of the old ways that I used to care for myself, and I do work in the evenings after my baby goes to sleep. By great providence, however, a lot of my favorite simple self-care rituals could be categorized as work, and vice versa. I’m fortunate that the product categories we are working in are conducive to “getting undone.” Anytime I develop a product, I try to experience a good expanse of products that are in the market in that particular category, as well as road-testing products and concoctions that I have in development. To me, experiencing and analyzing both personal care products, and also food and beverage, is an act of mindfulness. What do I like about this product? What don’t I like about this product? What feeling or memory does this fragrance evoke? Understanding the more impalpable qualities of sensory attributes is a decided act of mindfulness. Lately, in the name of product development duties, I’ve been taking a lot of baths! I feel like my natural habitat is a hot tub. And to kill two birds with one stone, I’ve been “testing” beverage products, while I’m in the bath. That is sort of my peak relaxation experience, or at least it has been in the last year.
These days, I’m typically doing more focused research. I’ll be reading books that are tangentially related to what we’re working on. Recently, I read a beautiful autobiography by Jean-Claude Ellena, the famed perfumer at Hermès. There’s another really great book called The Way We Lived, which is a first person aural account from the indigenous people of California about what life was like, from pre-colonization through colonization to now. That’s been a really interesting book for me, since I have an interest in indigenous plants. Generally speaking, I do a lot of my tangential research, which I really adore, in the evenings when I can sit down and focus and I’m not distracted by Slack or the baby or meetings.
Before I fall asleep, I do a little meditation that’s a combination of different styles of meditation that I developed for myself. I’ve been doing it for about 20 years now. It’s a personal thing, but it centers and grounds me. I usually fall asleep during it because I’m so exhausted [laughs]. I’m also a big fan of adaptogens, so I sometimes use a combination of light relaxing herbs to go to sleep: lately it has been a combination of passion flower, l-theanine derived from green tea, and ashwagandha. It’s not exciting, but it’s what my evenings look like. It’s all just in a condensed amount of time, because I have a yelling, screaming baby.
How are you finding connection in the midst of this period of isolation?
Because I’m both working and taking care of [my son] Arthur, I have less than an hour to myself every day. I find that lately I have only had time to connect to my immediate family. In the evenings, my partner comes home, and I love watching him and Arthur play together. It’s sort of our only time together as a family, so that’s really nice. I love bedtime with Arthur – playing with him in the evening is really special. It’s crazy having a kid, but they teach you how to be present.
To be honest, thank goodness for FaceTime. I’ll try to FaceTime with my family as much as possible, but I will say with my limited bandwidth I’ve been a bad friend. There’s a lot of friends that I just haven’t been able to have the usual connection with, because I’ve been so busy with work and the baby. My hope is that soon I will have a little more time to connect with my friends, which obviously I used to do a lot more in the evenings. But it’s kind of been like triage. I FaceTime my grandparents, and obviously I FaceTime Arthur’s grandparents because they’re crazy about him. I text a bit with friends. But I can’t be hard on myself – I’m doing my best with everything.
What restorative role does nature play in your life?
Nature is the most important thing to me, and it’s where I feel most at peace and comfortable. The great thing about LA is you can get out into nature and immerse yourself in all sorts of different microclimates (depending on which direction you go) pretty easily. We haven’t been able to do that too much lately, but I’m lucky in that I live in this area within the city that has its own really incredible little microclimate. The property I live on has tons of trees, and I can at least get outside and hang out in the trees and look at the stars every night.
It’s Sunday night and you’re vegging on the couch–what are you drinking? Reading?
It’s funny, in normal circumstances I would probably have a martini or a glass of Gamay, but my alcohol tolerance is still very low from not drinking during my pregnancy, so I might just have a glass of something in the beverage category that I am working on. Lately that is hard seltzer, since I am currently working on hard seltzer formulas. I really love aperitivos, so I might have a spritz or something like that in the summer months.
My mother was a nonfiction and a literary editor, so whether it is by nature or nurture, I’m a voracious reader, but I just haven’t had the time to read much fiction lately, which I mourn. I actually think reading fiction is more important to developing intelligence and neural pathways than reading anything else, or even studying anything. I really think reading fiction is the best thing you can do for your heart and for your brain.
Want to learn more about Morgan? Read her full feature here.