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Part II: A Roundtable with Mayor Cantrell and Black New Orleans Moms Leading the City

Self-Care & Success: Self-care is a trendy topic right now. A simple search of the hashtag #selfcare on social media will show all types of practices, that women in particular are utilizing to take care of themselves.

As moms, sometimes it can be easier to push those things that feed our soul to the back burner in order to take care of more “practical” matters in our families and on our jobs. For the past few weeks, self-care for me was waking up at 6 am to write this article that I am immensely passionate about. I think about self-care as also continuing to feed our passions and dreams in life. I knew that early mornings are my best time to write without interruptions while my mind is fresh. Every morning that I show up to write, feels like a form of self-care for me.

Imagine the added stressors of leading an entire city and major city departments along with the demands of raising children. The responsibilities can weigh heavily on you. I’ve come to think of self-care as acts of preservation. I think about older generations of Black women who may not have had the luxury to think about self-care. I honestly love the focus that Black women are putting on taking care of themselves. I believe we show up as better humans, better spouses, better moms, and better leaders when we take care of our mental, physical, and spiritual health.

In honor of Women's History Month, we continue with Part II of our roundtable conversation with Mayor Cantrell and Black New Orleans Moms who are leading city government. The women discuss what self-care looks like for them as they take on the monumental tasks of leading the City of New Orleans while also balancing motherhood.

How do you prioritize self-care as a mom and a leader?

Mayor Latoya Cantrell

“I've made a conscious effort to invest in myself and not be apologetic about it. In this role, I found that I've been made to feel as if my wellness isn't important. I can’t be out here talking about violence and then {when it comes to my health} it’s not ok? It doesn’t matter to me? It does matter for me. So I have been more intentional about dealing with my stressors. I know where I carry my stress. I go see my massage people and immediately my pressure is down. I’m taking time to learn my body and the signs because it tells you everything. Where I find my happiness is a part of wellness as well.”

Tenisha Stevens, Criminal Justice Commissioner

“I, too, am a work in progress. Self-care for me is more than taking care of your hair, nails, and toes. It's also taking care of your soul. Every morning at 6:10 am, I'm reading my devotion, saying my prayers, reading the scripture, and singing my song. That gets me through what I need to get through for the day and also it helps me encourage other people because people are wicked. When you step into a space, your day can be shattered by just one word that somebody has said that has not been nice. When I turned 50 last year, I promised myself I was going to do better taking care of myself because I put the needs of other people before mine and I'm a workaholic. I don't sleep well at night. Sometimes I go to bed with a lot of work things on my mind on how could we have done something better, how can we move this along quicker, and it’s like, OK, let me just get up and write it on a new page because I'll forget if I get up the next morning. Last year I had COVID first, then I had a hysterectomy, and then I had my gallbladder removed all within five months of each other. So that prompted me to actually start taking better care of myself.”

Lisa Alexis, Director of Cultural Economy

Lisa recently found out at a health fair that her blood pressure was elevated. Mayor Cantrell shared with her things that she does to keep herself in good health. Lisa reflected, “and so I said if she’s able to do that and I’m just a fraction of the responsibilities of what she has. So, I’m learning to do better. I am going to doctor’s appointments. I’m fortunate because I don’t have any other health issues, I am not on any medication, but I am going to have to monitor my blood pressure and get it on track. But I’m good and I’m going to do better. I am doing better.”

Sunae Villavaso, Director of Workforce Development

“I'm just making decisions to create a life that I don't have to regularly escape from. I love my job. I could do my job 24/7. I check in seven days a week. So that's my passion. I love it. Just creating and making choices. Creating a life that I don't have to take a step back from. So, when I feel anxious, which I do a lot, I run my miles. My four miles. During my first two miles I'm getting out all the negative energy and the juju. Then the next two miles…. I'm strategizing about my day. How I’m going to tackle whatever it is I have on my plate today. So, there's a strategy to my four miles. In the first two I’m just getting out of the anx so I don’t cut nobody and the last two just reflecting on how I’m going to progress. But for me, ultimately, it's just creating that life that I don't have to check out from.”

As these Black New Orleans moms reflected on their self-care practices, one of the running themes was how they, and we as moms, are all works in progress. As we work to find the balance between our myriad of responsibilities, it’s important that we continue to push forward in prioritizing our physical, mental, and spiritual wellness; for ourselves and for the future generations coming behind us. In the final article of the Women’s History Month series, Mayor Cantrell and her Black New Orleans mom department executives, share words of advice to our community as we navigate leadership while raising children.


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