The parent trap The parent trap

Don’t let the mum or dad guilt fool you. Dr Preeya Alexander prescribes self-care so parents can be at their best.

Whether you know her as co-host of Good Chef Bad Chef or you’re one of the 75,000+ followers lapping up her relatable health advice on Instagram, Melbourne GP Dr Preeya Alexander is the kind of expert you want in your corner when you tackle parenting.

But despite her vast medical knowledge and years of counselling parents in her consulting room, it wasn’t until she became a mum herself that she realised how much parents need looking after too. “I’d heard about sleep deprivation but when I lived it myself, it was a completely different ball game,” she recalls. “I was very foggy and my GP brain imploded. I wasn’t implementing [tactics] like I would for a patient because I was so tired.”

Now, out the other side of the baby years (with a seven-year-old daughter and threeyear-old son), she’s a wealth of knowledge on everything from infant medical needs to sleep strategies. But perhaps the biggest thing she’s learnt is that if you can find ways to fill up your own cup while raising kids, your whole family will benefit.

Ditch the guilt

Ditch the guilt

As much as she makes it look easy to work as a practising GP and TV host who also somehow manages to keep her Instagram updated with helpful medical intel, Dr Alexander feels as challenged by the working parent juggle as the rest of us. “One of the biggest surprises of having children was the guilt,” she says. “There’s that constant feeling of guilt [around] choosing to have a career or choosing to go out for dinner. [You’re always asking], ‘Am I there enough? Am I there too much? Am I giving them every opportunity? Am I exhausting them with too many opportunities?’”

She uses her own mother as a sounding board and relies on a carefully orchestrated calendar to make sure everyone’s needs are being met. “My mum was a single mum and a King’s Counsel who really juggled career and kids – and nailed it because I always felt like she was around and loved me,” she recalls. “She gives me really practical tips and tells me why I am doing a great job, and that really fills my cup.”

Dr Alexander also colour-codes her time with her kids in her diary. “When I’m feeling guilty, I go, ‘Oh, look how much orange there is’ – that’s the kids,” she says. “[I realise] I am striking some kind of balance because I can actually visually see it.”

And when she’s in that scheduled time with the kids, she’s careful to always make sure she’s all in. “I really try and separate it. I put my phone down and put everything away,” she says. “I’ll say, ‘I’m going to read you 20 books’ or ‘Let’s build the train set and see how long it can go and how many noises it can make’. It’s being present, which makes me feel better and I can tell the kids pick up on it.”

Reframe self-care

Having kids is arguably the most timeconsuming undertaking you’ll ever attempt, but Dr Alexander says your own needs don’t have to fall by the wayside completely. “I think the notion of self-care has been somewhat shattered by social media,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Go to a spa for a day or go to Coachella with your friends’. But it doesn’t have to be fancy or glamorous.”

So, while you might not be able to fit in the daily gym routine or leisurely sleep-ins of years gone by, celebrating small moments of peace can really make a difference. “Finding ways to put yourself first, just occasionally, I think is really important,” she says. “Self-care things can look very different for all of us. It might be having a mindful cup of tea in the morning before the kids get up or going for a walk on your own that’s going to recharge your batteries.”

Of course, she diarises self-care in her calendar. “It’s okay to put yourself at the top of the list,” she says. “I encourage my patients to do it, and it’s what I do too. I put my walk and Pilates classes on there, and they’re not coming off for anything.”


Originally published in The Costco Connection, Jul/Aug 2023. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.