My Money: 'With love on my side, I can get through today'

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Leena Yousefi and her daughter at home in Vancouver, Canada.Image source, Leena Yousefi
Image caption,
Leena Yousefi and her daughter at home in Vancouver, Canada.

My Money is a series looking at how people spend their money - and the sometimes tough decisions they have to make. Here, Leena Yousefi from Vancouver in Canada, takes us through a week in her life, as the world goes through the coronavirus pandemic.

Leena is 37. She is a lawyer and the CEO of YLaw Group, a law firm located in British Columbia. Leena has been chosen as one of the Top 25 Lawyers in Canada, and one of Vancouver's Top 40 under 40.

Her recent LinkedIn post went viral with more than 43,000 'likes' when she wrote: "One day I will tell you about all the sleepless nights and all the mornings I woke up and kissed you as I went to Court, so you know if I can do it, you can too."

She lives with her husband and seven-month-old daughter and describes herself as "a true working mom."

Leena's week: Coronavirus, working from home, and trying to stay sane and grateful

Over to Leena...

I wake up to a tiny face with a huge smile from ear to ear. That is my daughter and she is completely clueless about what is happening in the world. She seems genuinely content just to lay on the bed next to me and touch my face with her tiny hands.

Image source, Leena Yousefi
Image caption,
Leena Yousefi's seven-month-old baby girl.

Another COVID-19 morning, or is it anymore? We are out of quarantine and my favourite coffee shop has reopened and is grateful for my morning runs to grab my latte. Half of us are still working from home, and the other half come in and out of the office in our casual gear. I am doing the same. Today, I will be working from my kitchen.

Image source, Leena Yousefi

Instead of jumping in the shower and doing my hair, I grab the baby and put on music. "Stand by Me" plays and I dance with her all around the kitchen and living room. She is so excited. This has become our morning routine, and I am grateful for the experience.

I play with her as much as I can and when she naps, I get to work. My husband is also at home so we try to split the responsibilities half and half. So far neither one of us is as productive, but still it's not so bad. We are a lot more positive and happy being around one another, as difficult as it can be sometimes having no space or alone time. I find that when I leave home is when the reality of this situation really hits me.

I have been forced to cook most meals now that we can only do pick up or take out. I make a delicious Thai curry as my husband puts baby to sleep.

Total spend: 5 Canadian dollars (£2.84, $3.60)

I wake up after another sleepless night with the baby. She always greets me with a huge smile and makes me forget how hard of a time she gives me every night!

Image source, Leena Yousefi

In order to get the company going and keep us connected, we have Zoom virtual meetings twice a week. My favourite is the second time which is our 'happy hour' at 16:00 on Fridays. Tuesdays are mostly about getting a sense of just how much we have been hit by COVID and ways of thinking about how to keep the business afloat.

We talk, laugh, and come up with ideas together for an hour. Hey, this is not so bad. I feel like we are all learning how to cope and live with the virus instead of being in our original state of panic and fear.

Image source, Leena Yousefi

We need groceries, and more importantly, I need wine. So I put on my "outside" clothes and go down the grocery store. I notice people lining up and keeping a two-metre distance from one another based on green tapes on the ground that guide them where to stand. It feels like an apocalypse still.

It's sad to see how sombre and stressed most people look. The energy is just not that happy no matter how much we try to spin it. We are concerned and uncertain; trying to find ways to cope. There is so much loss; loss of work, relationships, security, human connection, the outside world, etc.

The security guard finally lets me in and I buy my groceries. The entire time I am thinking of whether I have touched something that may carry the virus.

Tonight, we have wine and I make flatbread while the baby jumps with joy in her jolly jumper.

Total spend: 150 Canadian dollars (£85, $108) mostly spent on wine

Best thing about COVID-19 for me so far? Learning to exercise every day from the comfort of my home with some hot Youtube fitness girl which my husband seems to thoroughly enjoy watching nowadays!

I have rearranged our living room so I have open space to do yoga or morning exercises which means big savings (from gym and personal trainer) and a happy Leena, and even a happier husband.

Given that everyone I know has gained a few pounds since COVID started, this is my saving grace. I exercise every morning no matter what. I put the baby on the ground with her toys, and as she plays I work out. She looks at me confused as to what is going on but quickly gets back to her toys.

Today I have to get in the car and drive down to the office to pick up some important documents. I am noticing more people on the street, more smiles, more normalcy and that gives me hope.

I stop by the gas station and my jaw drops at the cost of gas. I don't think I have seen these numbers in at least 20 years.

Image source, Leena Yousefi
Image caption,
The price of fuel in Vancouver: 99.9 Canadian cents (57 pence) a litre

I work from a half empty office for a few hours and feel better because that has forced me to blow-dry my hair after so long, put on some nice clothes and get a much-needed break from home as my husband takes care of our daughter.

Image source, Leena Yousefi
Image caption,
Leena's empty office

I drive straight home because well, do I have a choice? At least there is love at home and with love on my side, I can get through today too.

Total spend: $50 [£28.42]

My Money

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I wake up with messy hair that so badly needs a haircut, a face that is begging for a facial and pyjamas that have now ripped and no replacements because no, I like to try my darn clothes before paying for them and hate online shopping and returns.

In the middle of feeling ungroomed and ugly, I am pleasantly interrupted by my daughter's smiley face reminding me of what truly matters in this life. I get up, make coffee and dance with her and feel better.

Times like these remind me that we really don't need much outside of food and shelter as long as our partners or family can put up with our 'new look'. My family's spending has been reduced to levels I have not experienced since I was a student. I must say it feels good in some ways. Like we are all cleansing ourselves of what we don't need and focusing on what matters.

Tonight, as I get ready to cook, I hear the birds singing over cars which is a miracle. Perhaps it is time for birds, animals and nature to have their go on this earth and enjoy it to themselves; even for a short period of time before we figure out how to dominate it again.

Total spend: 0

It's Friday but it doesn't feel like the weekend. In fact, I didn't even notice it was Friday as days are just blurring into one another as we go about our lives doing the same things we were doing yesterday, and have not had any darn happy hour in over one-and-a-half months!

I have another virtual meeting with staff and lawyers telling me their work has slowed down. Who has money to throw at a lawyer when they are trying to survive? I tell my employees it is time for us to give back and help without expecting anything in return. We all come up with the plan to give free legal advice to whoever is confused during Coronavirus times.

I go out on the balcony and clear it out. I put down my yoga mat and start meditating. I then spend 30 minutes doing yoga by the sunset. I almost forgot to look up at the sky and see its beauty in the middle of a pandemic we have not experienced in almost a century. We have had some beautiful sunny days lately but no one seems to talk about that or even notice the sun. The birds are singing again, and I feel content; even if only for a few minutes.

The thing about Coronavirus time is that happiness and sadness come in waves. There are a lot of good lessons learned that we will carry for the rest of our lives. But we also can't help but to feel sad sometimes. That is because we just don't know when it is going to end and what is going to happen.

The main difference between happiness and sadness to me is hope. I try to remember to remain hopeful, because guess what, it is going to get better. I just don't know when.

Total spend: 0

I wake up in a panic thinking about all the plants at the office which we all have forgotten about in the chaos of trying to figure out life. I run down to the car and down to the office to grab them. Our two beautiful and fragile bonsai trees are dying because just like us, plants need love. And in the case of bonsais, a lot of love.

I put the plants in a box and bring them home. Hubby and I immediately start bringing them back to life. We put them in fresh air, under the sun and give them lots of water and loving touches.

Image source, Leena Yousefi
Image caption,
Leena brought the office plants home to try to bring them back to life.

I proceed to grab my phone and get on a video call with my sister and best friends. Just four girls with a few glasses of wine on an App we didn't know about until this virus thing happened. You can talk, play games and drink as you pass the time in isolation on a Saturday night.

I miss our date nights. On Saturdays if I was going out, I would spend anywhere from 50 to 300 dollars. Tonight though, I am spending 0.

Total spend: 0

Sunday. Let's clean and sterilise everything day. I put the baby on her stroller and walk her around the apartment as I obsessively clean everything and feel better that maybe now there are less germs around.

Using my mobile phone constantly has also become a bad habit during these days. It has become addictive to read news as we are all looking for answers, and specially what the government will do to help us pay for our personal and business expenses. I decide to put the phone away today.

I am so tired of cooking. Tonight we are going to order take out and I am sure the struggling restaurant appreciates the support. Ah, so nice to just sit and eat instead of cooking once again.

Total spend: 50 Canadian dollars (£28, $50)

Total spent this week: 255 Canadian dollars (£145, $184)

How does Leena feel about her week?

That is a loaded question. I guess like everyone else: This thing feels like an out-of-body experience; it is uncertain, unknown, exhilarating, and challenging.

This week has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Just like everyone else, I am trying to keep my head above the water and continue to just accept the situation and not question the lessons we are to learn from it. Yet, I have never lost so many things in such short amount of time. Things that I took for granted almost all my life and now are taken away from me, and I am choosing what to take back. But I am grateful for the experience, for still being healthy, for being connected to the whole world as we go through this; the rich and the poor and without any discrimination. Maybe after all of this, we realise we are all insignificant, fragile, equal, and loved.

My friends, this too, shall pass.

Image source, Leena Yousefi

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