A simple way to make egg hunts less stressful for everyone, courtesy of the Netherlands

Ah, the community Easter egg hunt. Is there more of a mixed bag than this adorable spring tradition?

While cute kiddos with festive baskets hunting for colorful eggs is the stuff of Instagram fever dreams, the reality can sometimes be less than picture-perfect. We've all witnessed overzealous parents racing to make sure their kid gets as many eggs as possible, bigger kids swooping in and swiping the prize before a wee one can get to it, less competitive and more reserved kids feeling overwhelmed by the free-for-all chaos, and some children inevitably ending up in tears.

But it doesn't have to be that way. A Netherlands neighborhood egg hunt shared on Facebook highlights how kids can enjoy the thrill of the hunt without the sometimes brutal competitiveness.

Janelle Hanchett moved from California to Haarlem, Netherlands with her husband and four kids two summers ago. Hanchett, who writes about parenting and life at Renegade Mothering, shared that they attended a neighborhood egg hunt this weekend and were happily surprised by how it went down.


"We just had the neighborhood egg hunt and they did it quite differently," she wrote. "The kids run and find eggs but put them in a big communal basket, then they're divided evenly among all the kids. They even include siblings in the neighborhood who weren't even there (being, you know, too 'big' for such things (or having hidden the eggs)). And the little girl too shy to participate. And they all got the exact same number of eggs."

"This is so smart and lovely I have no idea how/why I never thought of it," she continued. "I always hated the competitiveness of egg hunts — the faster or selfish kids grabbing up what they could at any costs. The milder, younger, slower kids left behind. Seriously that shit gave me so much anxiety I could hardly watch egg hunts. I can't understand why I never thought of this."

A fun, cooperative egg hunt? How remarkably civil.

I asked a Dutch-American friend if this is the way it's done in general in the Netherlands, and his friends who live in various parts of the country concurred that yes, this is how they do it.

"Equally shared at the end of the day, no stress at all," wrote one person.

"Otherwise it would end in tears for sure," wrote another.

Well yes, actually. Tears and/or violence. (Google "egg hunt turns violent" for Easter egg kerfuffles that got so bad they made the news. Good times.)

Some people on Hanchett's post mentioned that they do egg hunts similar to the Dutch way. Because my own kids vary in age so much, our family egg hunts have always looked somewhat similar to it as well. We hide a number of eggs that can be evenly divided by the number of kids, and then tell the kids how many eggs they're supposed to find. Once they reach that limit, they can keep searching, but they aren't to give away where any others are hidden unless someone who's still looking asks for help. The kids love it. It's just as much fun, and so much less stress than the every-kid-for-themselves, keep-everything-you-can-find method. But I've never seen it done that way in any community egg hunts.

It's actually not all that surprising that such a reasonable idea comes from the Netherlands, where egalitarian principles are simply a way of life and kids are taught the value of taking care of the whole from a young age.

"If this isn't the most perfect metaphor for how the two countries approach social resources," wrote Hanchett. "Whew. And no, no kid complained or said 'But I found more!' Because that, too, is taught. As easily as we can teach our kids that there isn't enough so they better plow down the little guy to GET THEIRS—rewarding them for being the biggest asshole in the garden—we can teach them that there is absolutely enough if everyone does what they can, throws it in a basket, and passes it around."

Some will undoubtedly look at this idea and say, "Well, that sounds like communism!" but that's a pretty long stretch. This is not a government mandate—it's a society cooperating to make sure that everyone can enjoy the fun and festivity of a kids' holiday activity. This approach tacitly acknowledges that some kids will have a natural advantage, some kids will be overly competitive, some kids don't have the ability (or desire) to grab eggs quickly, etc., and that those realities will lead to a pretty crappy outcome for some kids. The seeking and finding activity itself still allows for those differences, but when you're hunting for the benefit of the whole, the selfish element takes a back seat.

Making an egg hunt a cooperative team event rather than an individual competition may seem like a revolutionary idea, but it's a brilliant one. Thanks for the inspiration, Netherlands!

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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