After giving birth to her fifth son recently, Anna Shannon of Gulf Stream heard the same question over and over, from friends and strangers alike: “Weren’t you hoping for a girl?”
She developed a standard reply.
“My husband and I have a formula, and we’re sticking to it,” she’d say with a smile.
It’s a practical answer from a very practical mother. The truth is, they weren’t particularly hoping (or trying) for a girl — just another healthy baby. And the stork delivered.
Little Finn Robert Shannon was born on March 5, in plenty of time for Mother’s Day.
Shannon says she had almost forgotten what newborns were like. Her first four boys are now 14, 12, 10 and 8.
“For a few years there, I was kind of popping them out and it was all a blur,” she says. “But this time, the older boys were able to pay attention to the whole experience and gain an appreciation for what it takes to bring a human life into the world. “
Now that Finn’s here, Shannon says it’s been wonderful to see his big brothers take ownership of him. “Our 8-year-old can hardly walk past the baby without giving him a kiss,” she says. The boys help with babysitting, keep the house straightened up, and (being boys) have a special fascination for what Finn leaves in his diaper.
Day-to-day life with a house full of busy boys comes with a unique set of challenges, Shannon says, especially since both she and her husband, Bill, work outside of the home. It helps that she has a housekeeper — and an iPhone: Shannon sends email to herself as a way to keep track of the kids’ after-school activities and appointments.
To keep communication flowing, the Shannons make a point of sitting down together for dinner almost every night.
“For Bill and I, that’s our favorite time of the day because we get to watch the kids interact with each other and with us. I hold the baby on my lap, and we go around the table and everybody gets their turn to talk. Everyone knows on a daily basis what’s going on in the other’s life, and the younger ones learn about things they’ll be going through from the older ones.”
Will the Shannons be adding any more little team members to their all-boy squad?
“It’s tempting right now because I’m lost in new-baby bliss,” admits Shannon, 42. “If I were five years younger, absolutely,” she says. “But probably not.”
— Paula Detwiller
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Montreal has a flair for food, fashion and different cultures. I think it gives you great appreciation for the diversity of our world.
Q. Tell us about your role in the family business.
A. I’ve been working with my husband, Bill, at Direct Source Special Products for the last 17 years. He is the president of the company and I work in the product development and creative side.
Our company has recently launched Aussan Natural, a line of 100 percent natural cleaning and air care products. I work in developing products and packaging, sales materials and the marketing campaigns.
Having a house full of boys, we need and use cleaning products!
When you start to read about the dangers of the everyday products we use in our daily lives, from cosmetics to foods to air fresheners, and how they directly affect our health and the health of our children and pets, you realize how important it is to make the switch to more natural products.
Our kids are learning about the environment in school and how they can make a difference with small steps such as recycling and the days they do beach cleanups with their school. Living here in Florida, our boys have a deep love of the ocean and fishing, and when you think about how washing your boat with soaps and bleach can affect the waterways and marine life, it makes it all the more important to really think about what we’re putting out there and in our own environments.
We have lots of interesting dinner conversations with our boys about our business and they are very invested in what we’re doing and building.
Q. Have you had previous careers, or hobbies? What were the highlights?
A. After finishing high school in Montreal, I did a bit of college and then met Bill when we both worked for a health supplement company. We got married when I was in my early 20s. He had started Direct Source, and as it grew, I joined him in the business.
In those days, Direct Source sold value-priced music CDs and movie DVDs to retailers like Walmart, Costco and Sam’s Club. But with the introduction of iTunes, people stopped buying traditional CDs. So we took what we knew how to do and switched to a different product line: the natural cleaning products.
We also have Village Square Home Interiors, a furniture store in Pineapple Grove (Delray Beach). A talented group of women run the store for us, while Bill and I focus on Direct Source, which is our main business.
Q. What tips do you have for other busy moms?
A. I don’t know if I have tips necessarily. I think you need to delegate, breathe, have a sense of humor, sit down together for meals and forgive yourself on a daily basis. I think parents have a challenging road to travel. We set high expectations for ourselves and we are constantly bombarded with outside images and messages of perfection.
When you work in the home or outside of the home, are trying to raise decent children, be present in your relationships and marriage, be a somewhat active member of the community and hope to meet everyone’s expectations … well, at the end of the day, going through the ongoing to-do list, you have to take that deep breath and realize there’s always tomorrow.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Gulf Stream?
A. My husband’s sister Joanne lives here with her family. It made it an obvious choice to live where we could be together. There is nothing like having family nearby.
Joanne and her husband, Bobby, have three boys so when we get together there are eight boys! It’s pretty incredible. We feel very fortunate to have them in our lives.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Gulf Stream?
A. Gulf Stream School is a big part of it. We feel very privileged that our boys can be educated in such an incredible environment with an incredibly talented staff. Gulf Stream is made up of neighbors and families that went out of their way to make us feel welcome. People really do make the difference.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. I feel very fortunate to have a life touched by many incredible people, but if I were pressed to give one person, it would truly be my husband, Bill.
He pushes the envelope and it’s taken me out of my comfort zone. He lives with the motto of “taking it to the next level” and has made our life a real adventure.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. Angelina Jolie or Tina Fey.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. My father always told me and my two sisters, “The more I learn, the more I learn I know nothing.”
Those words become all the more wise to me, having kids who seem to know everything!
Q. Who or what makes you laugh?
A. That’s easy: my boys.