On Fahrenheit and Family Leave

I often tell people, both those who love me back home and the friends I’ve made in Ireland that I’ve been homesick this entire time—but that I’m not too sad about it. I was lucky to go back to the states for two weeks during winter break, which let me reflect on what I value so much about my home, and what that home is sorely lacking.

For example, I think measuring things in kilograms and kilometers is the superior system. However, driving in the US again showed me that while I understand kilometers so much more clearly now for walking distances and small trips, giving me driving directions in kilometers (your next exit is in 5.2k…) is way less intuitive than miles. Likewise, packing and repacking my bag until my digital scale showed me under the Aer Lingus limit of 23 kilos made instinctive sense. I can move between these measurements easily now. 

The measuring system I truly do not understand is Celsius. I understand 60°F as a beautiful day for hiking if there’s no wind, but tell me it’s 15°C outside and I’ll probably just stare at you until I can pull out my phone and make Google do the conversion for me. 

But this blog post isn’t about how weird and different measuring systems are. It’s about the laughing and struggling as I tried to explain just how cold and snowy it was in the states to the Dublin piercer about to shove a 14g (or as they measure piercings here, 1.6mm) needle through the back of my ear, and realizing that I can get by better than I think. 

Earlier in the semester, in my Gender, Policy, and Inequality class I had another kind of shock. My professor was explaining characteristics of welfare states and brought up child allowances as an example of that. I remember feeling so confused as everyone else nodded along, (a similar feeling to when my German and Swiss friends are talking about the weather in Celsius, actually) and then a moment of cold realization. 

A realization that in some countries, people are paid weekly from the state per child to support the cost of raising a child because the state has decided this is something that matters. A realization that in some countries, women are granted 6 months of paid leave (or much longer!!) after having a child, and there are also transnational pushes for paid second parent (or paternal) leave so that dads can be home too in the first years of their children’s lives. A realization that I have spent my entire life as an activist in the US on the defensive, fighting to secure basic bodily autonomy and abortion rights and literally getting lapped by other countries when it comes to supporting reproductive decisions. 

So, I am homesick. Things are different here. We all know this. However, I refuse to idealize the place I left, and I refuse to idealize Irish and EU policies as a panacea for the issues I see back home. I want to be able to move between both systems. I want to take the things I am learning here and go back and make my own little corner of the world better—whether that’s measuring my veggie purchases at Kroger in kilos or working towards a liberatory future where everyone is empowered to make real choices about their bodies, their families, and their futures.

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