Bellwethr Magazine

Nannies A-Go-Go

A service called Charter Nannies places caretakers on the road to provide care for touring musicians and their families.

WORDS BY Thomas Scott // ART BY Jennifer Lioy

Theresa “Teeter” Sperber, a 36-year-old nanny, wakes up 3-year-old Mikko and his 15-month-old brother, Marlon, for breakfast. Ideally, she wants to get them outside the house for the day. That house is the tour bus they’ve been on for three weeks with Peaking Lights, a pop duo based in Los Angeles.

Sperber, who was hired by husband and wife Peaking Lights duo, Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis, is one of at least 70 caretakers who help traveling musicians and artists manage life on the road with their families. With summer tours in full swing, the demand is high for these “super nannies.”

The company Charter Nannies works as a bridge between qualified nannies who are capable of handling the ups and downs of life on the road and the clients who need them. “I was a good fit for them because I was totally open for anything,” Sperber says.

Two traveling nannies, a musician, and a single mother founded the business in 2010. Because they live in different parts of the country, Julia Knapp, Erin Austen Abbott, Kori Gardener Hammel, and Kristin Perry manage the company through texts, emails, and meetings using Google Hangout. Initially, the nannies traveled with bands, including The Flaming Lips and Mates of State, each featuring young parents who wanted to keep rocking and remain with their families. As the demand for this niche service grew, so did Charter Nannies. “It’s creating an artist community that supports each other and supports family,” Knapp says.

Most new clients come through referrals, and the company has gotten the attention of guitarist Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips, classical violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and even NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Drozd has used Charter Nannies on three separate tours and loves the service because traveling with his family makes the road more tolerable. “When I’m touring alone, I worry about my family,” Drozd says. “I worry about something happening. I worry about my wife losing her mind. I worry about everything. It makes all the difference in the world having your family with you.”

Knapp says that the main challenge of being a travel nanny is adapting to change. “Touring is not for everybody,” Knapp says. “The schedule is different everyday. I’ve done band tours, tour bus tours. I’ve done flying tours. Every couple of days, you are flying into a new city. So the challenges are knowing how to be flexible.”

Sperber agrees. “It’s constantly being on my toes, coming up with new games,” she says. “So a lot of it, for me, is straight playing with [the kids].” She gives the boys arts and crafts projects and tries to show them around each city they visit.

One night, a show ended late and Marlon, who breastfeeds, was hungry. Mikko, the wise 3-year-old, provided a solution. “Don’t worry, Teeter, you can fix it. You just have to feed him some milk from your boobie,” Sperber remembers Mikko saying. “He thought I could just take care of it. He thought it was that easy to replace mom.”

Before concert time, the parents go to sound check, and the crew prepares the stage. Sometimes Sperber will bring the kids to the setup so they can see their parents before bedtime. Sometimes Dunis is able to get back in time to say goodnight to her boys before they go to bed.

Once the boys are asleep, Sperber must prepare for what the next day has in store. And for a Charter Nanny, that could be anything.

Featured image courtesy of Charter Nannies.

Mobile Mary Poppins: The founders of Charter Nannies (from left to right) Julia Knapp, Kristen Perry, Kori Gardener Hammel, and Erin Austen.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARTER NANNIES.
Mobile Mary Poppins: The founders of Charter Nannies (from left to right) Julia Knapp, Kristen Perry, Kori Gardener Hammel, and Erin Austen. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARTER NANNIES.
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