I'm a Dad and a Weekend News Anchor—Here's How I Make Weeknight Memories With My Kids

NBC News' Chief White House Correspondent and weekend Today show co-anchor, Peter Alexander, says family comes first. Here's how the proud dad of two and his wife, broadcast journalist Alison Starling, prioritize bonding time and making memories.

Peter Alexander

Even a casual news viewer can't help but recognize Peter Alexander. As the NBC News' Chief White House Correspondent and weekend Today show co-anchor, Alexander has brought the top headlines from the nation's capital to families since he landed at the network in 2004. But as thrilling as his work is, the proud father to two girls—Ava, 9, and Emma, 7—embraces a philosophy he learned from his dad: "Family comes first; the rest are details."

Alexander recalls how, before welcoming his daughters, he'd have an assignment on the road and stay an extra night, as opposed to taking the late flight back. "My priorities are now just being home, whenever, as often as I can," says Alexander. "I'll take the last flight home just to be able to sleep in my own bed and kiss them, even if they're already asleep when I get home, or I'll take the earliest flight in the morning if that allows me to read and put them to bed the night before. I'll hustle back from anchoring the Today show in time to see my daughter's soccer game and then my other daughter's softball game. If we're allowed to clear out of the White House before it's too late, I'll hustle over to a practice or parent-teacher night."

Alexander realizes that showing up in those ways matters not only to him but to his kids. "I can see it in their eyes when I'm there to experience those things in person—how valuable it is for them too," he notes.

Parents recently caught up with the journalist about what family life looks like for him these days and the little ways in which he and his wife make memories with their children.

Setting Boundaries

When his daughters were younger, Alexander says there was "sort of a sense" that if he missed something, they may be too young to express that they noticed—or perhaps not even notice at all. But now, his daughters are quite open about wanting quality time with their dad. "Now it's clear," he says. "[They'll say,] 'Why can't you go to this?' or 'I want you to be at this—it's important to me.' And they don't have to repeat that. I know how important that stuff is to them, and I try to do it as best I can."

He acknowledges that given his professional responsibilities, he often has to pick his battles. "Some days, you have a source meeting or an event late at night that you have to be a part of and you're going to miss bedtime or reading at night," explains Alexander. "But other times, you just gotta say, 'Hey, this is what matters.'"

The anchor feels fortunate that a lot of his colleagues respect that about him. "It's actually helped me develop a lot of the relationships professionally with sources and others who appreciate that I'm not a journalist first—I'm a person first," says Alexander. "I'm a dad who does this for a living."

Speaking of those sources, being that Alexander covered the White House in 2012-2014, he saw firsthand how former President Barack Obama juggled work and fatherhood. "Obama went out of his way to make sure he was leaving the White House at the same time each night, so he could have dinner with his family," points out Alexander. "Now, he had a little bit more control over his schedule as the president. But you know, those are priorities."

Peter Alexander and his family.
Peter Alexander and his family. Courtesy of Peter Alexander

Tackling Tough News at Home

Parenting alongside his wife, a co-anchor of D.C.'s ABC affiliate WJLA-TV, Alexander says they're "a news family," which can make it tough to shield his daughters from "crummy stuff going on in the world."

He recalls the day, early on in the pandemic, when he asked former President Donald Trump what his message was to Americans who were scared. "And he said, 'I say you're a terrible reporter, that's what I say,'" says Alexander. "And I remember coming home that night, and my daughter was probably 5 at the time. She was clearly emotional, if not weepy. And she said, 'Dad, I want you to know, I don't think you're a terrible reporter. I think you're a great reporter,' which kind of struck me because I didn't even know how she knew that that had happened."

Ultimately, while he and Starling do their best not to expose the girls to unnerving moments like that one, Alexander says ​​they'll often have a dialogue about the big picture. "I definitely try to explain to them my experiences at work and why what their dad and mom does matters," he notes.

Making Everyday Moments Special for His Girls

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alexander jokes that he needed plenty of help to even find the White House on the day he was announced as NBC News' White House Correspondent. Even more than a decade later, he's still excited about his new hometown and shares that with his family.

"I've tried to make the most out of our living in the nation's capital," says Alexander, who notes that they'll take family field trips to George Washington's home Mount Vernon, to the Washington Monument, or to the Spy Museum in an effort to "be out and be together and create memories together."

And making that happen is a team effort. "My wife and I both have tried to put a lot of energy into parenting as a partnership," he says.

The pair is also invested in being more spontaneous with their girls. "On the Sunday before school started, we told the girls we had a surprise for them," says Alexander. "We made them wear blindfolds in the back of the car, which were actually their masks that were over their eyes. We went to the Clay Cafe, this little pottery place where you got to paint your own pottery. Then when they look at those colorful plates just out of the kiln, in their room, they'll remember things that we did together."

Alexander also treasures the moments that aren't planned. "My little one, when we lay in bed at night, she has a habit of revealing everything that she wouldn't share throughout the rest of the day," says the co-anchor. "I love her being so forthcoming and transparent. Last night, she said, 'Daddy, remember when I had to read for 10 minutes earlier? I wasn't actually reading. I just had the book open. And was turning the pages.' And I was like, 'That is very honest. Let me guess, you also didn't eat your carrots at dinner.' And she started laughing and said, 'Mom says I always tell the truth when I'm going to bed!'"

Ultimately, from family dance parties to his eldest's recent birthday party, which involved "10,000 karaoke songs," although as Alexander jokes, they "pretty much just needed Encanto and Taylor Swift on a loop," the dad of two is dedicated to infusing every day with even just a bit more silliness and bonding time.

"You just realize that just time is my most valuable resource," says Alexander. "I don't want for things. I want for memories. I'm just trying to make the most of those each day when I can."

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