Shannon Kelly for TheCulturedKid.com.au

River Bennett for TheWolfpackMrs.

I had thought about Shannon Kelly every day for a whole week after I had met her.

She had just landed back on Australian soil after two years living in New York. She was beautifully stylish, confident and happy. She had two children and a ridiculously creative husband who had crazy wild hair that reminded me of 1970's singer songwriter, Bob Dylan. 

We were introduced by a mutual friend and the moment we started talking I knew I wanted to be her friend.

Shannon was a marvelous mixture of culture and personality. 

While we conversed on subjects such as Motherhood and where to source the best vintage fur rugs, I could hear the easy going Queenslander she claims, "Is still on the inside", combined with the bold, passionate New Yorker and something else I couldn't put my finger on. Was it something European? A sophisticated French business woman perhaps? Or was it simply a large hearted Italian? 

That's the thing with Shannon she leaves you intrigued, wanting to know more of who she is and where she is going.

“Our family moved to New York City at the start of 2011.

At the time, my children were 1 and 2 years old and we figured there was no better time to move to the other side of the world than the present. So we basically sold everything we owned and packed our bags.

We arrived in New York with 6 suitcases and an optimistic outlook.

We moved into an empty apartment, and slowly but surely created a home for our family. Most of the furniture I found was sourced from vintage salvage stores, and Craig's List. What seemed like a crazy scenario ended up to be one of the highlights of my life.

In saying that, it was also one of the craziest seasons of my life. For me, getting around New York was one of the biggest challenges. We didn't have a car so our only transportation was the subway. I had two toddlers in a double stroller, bouncing down subway stairs and weaving in and out of people traffic. All the while thinking I have to get back up those stairs! With groceries!

Looking back I still wonder how I did it!

New York has this innate ability to treat you terribly, almost spit you out and yet something about it holds your heart in ransom. You fall in love with the place. Especially at Christmas time. It's magical.

The people are so gentle and completely resilient. Always friendly, always rallying together.

I would often have the most unlikely characters offering to lift my stroller up 3 flights of subway stairs. It is this kind of camaraderie that made me fall in love with the city. There’s this sense that everyone is in it together.

We came back to Sydney because we felt like our season in New York was winding down. We had poured our lives into the place and into it's people. We felt like it was time to hand over our role to the team we had been working with. It was a bitter sweet moment. They had become like family, but we knew they were meant to be running things. Sometimes you have to step out so others can step up.

It took me 12 months to really settle back into Australia. Not only did I miss New York but also our ‘friends-who-were-family’ over there. It took me a long time to be excited about being back in Sydney, which by comparison now felt like a small country town!

By this stage, my son, Miles was in school and Cohen, my daughter was doing 3 days a week at preschool. I started dreading the days when the kids were gone because I just didn't know what to do without them!

I remember talking to a friend about how I was feeling and was encouraged to just start something. So I did. I started a blog and began writing again. This writing helped me get excited about what lay in the future.

All of a sudden, a new wave of creativity was unleashed and I started dreaming about what I could do next.

Of all the things I have done with my life, I can say that being home with my kids has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. However, I always knew there was more in me that could add to me being a great mum. I had to do the things that I was naturally good at. And starting businesses was one of them.

So this year, I decided it was time to go back to work and put my degree to good use.

I found myself getting sad at the thought of not being able to pick my kids up from school and spending the afternoons with them so I promptly decided that the only option for me was to start something of my own. 

Enter "The Cultured Kid". A kids language playgroup that focuses on immersion through play. We started with French language playgroups for the 2-5 year old age group, and it quickly developed to Spanish groups as well.

From conception to birth, it only took about 5 weeks to build. I wrote 2 terms worth of curriculums and worked intensively with early childhood experts, registered the business, developed branding and marketing strategies and somehow managed to throw together a website.

I’m not going to lie, it was a crazy 5 weeks. Every moment I wasn't with my kids, I was shaping this new business. It was here I came to realize that I don’t do anything in half measures! 

When I was a younger I studied German from primary school all the way through university.

It was when I was 15, that my life changed! I won a scholarship to go to Germany on exchange and it was this experience that exposed me to a world far greater than the one I had grown up in.

It is because of experiences like that that excite me about stepping out of my comfort zone. I can honestly say, that if I hadn't studied a language, I probably wouldn't have been exposed to the world in the way that I was - my world would have remained much smaller.

This experience also made me dream bigger, made me see that anything is possible. 

Since starting "The Cultured Kid", I have been overwhelmed by the the positive response from parents in the local community. Mums and Dads love the idea that their kids can still be kids and play but naturally learn something as important as a language at the same time. We work on the philosophy that kids learn naturally, not by translating. First they hear, then they understand and then they speak. It’s that simple.

We started running Preschool French classes at a daycare centre in Balmain (Inner West of Sydney) back in August and by January 2015, we will be holding both French and Spanish classes in 8 daycare centers across Sydney. As you can imagine, it’s definitely keeping me on my toes! 

Being a stay at home mum and running a business is definitely challenging.

At busy times, I can find myself wishing the kids would give me time to get things done, but then I realise that I chose this option to work my life around my family, and THEY are the priority and my perspective shifts pretty quickly then.

I find myself smiling more than I used to. I love the challenge of being so out of my depth in so many ways. It’s definitely an amazing adventure! It’s funny though, because I never in a million years thought I’d be doing what I’m doing. It goes to show you never truly know what’s around the corner.

If I had any advice to give to anyone, I would encourage them to really step out and start something. Start anything. What you start isn't always what you will end up doing for the rest of your life, but it's the starting point that gains you momentum.

Sometimes you just have to push through the fear to see that an amazing adventure is waiting right in front of you."

 

For more info on The Cultured Kid head to:

 www.theculturedkid.com.au 

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@theculturedkid

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