My Process Behind Our Story: “Grandparents Help Hawai‘i Parents Get the Job Done”

I collected stories from the community, sought out data and spoke with a variety of sources to put together this article. 
10 21 Heroes 1800x1200 Grandparents How We Did This
Illustration by: Kelsey Ige

Many working parents will say they can’t balance work and family without help. Some rely on friends to carpool their kids to school. Others might bring their kids to the office and have a colleague watch them so they can attend a meeting. But many rely on family – especially parents and in-laws – to help watch their kids while they work.

An important part of many of Hawai‘i’s various cultures is nurturing family, so Hawaii Business Magazine wanted to dive into the grandparent aspect. And because we’re a business magazine, we wanted to see how that care helps parents stay in the workforce and how its prevalence impacts policies and other efforts to help working families. The idea for this story came from our associate editor, Cynthia Wessendorf, who as the mother of a child now in college, knows the challenges of juggling parenting and work.

I began this story with a call-out on social media and for stories from working parents about the ways that grandparents help them. I also wanted to hear from the many Hawai‘i parents who don’t have family here or relatives who are physically and mentally able to provide care. I wanted to learn about the ways these parents balance work and family without that help. Although the call was open to both working moms and dads, I received responses entirely from moms, most of whom had assistance from their parents, in-laws or other relatives.

The stories I collected played an important role in my coverage. They helped me get a sense of the many ways that grandparents assist working parents and the appreciation that parents have for that help. The following quote validated why my colleagues and I felt it was so important to shine a light on this topic.

“They are superheroes and need to be recognized more,” wrote first-time mom Starla Takahara in her response to our questionnaire. “Though they went through their round of raising us, they are willing to help us by watching our keiki while we try to support our ‘ohanas.”

Many of the respondents cited concerns about the cost of Hawai‘i child care as a reason they are so grateful for their family’s help. This led me to speak with a variety of sources that have fought for more economic support for working families. In some cases, my initial assumption – that grandparent-provided child care is common – was challenged. Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network’s Deborah Zysman argues that full-time grandparent-provided care is a model of the past – when grandparents could retire before 65 and when mothers could stay home.

“I think the assumption that we have a grandparent-dominant model is a false, false assumption,” she said. “And I think it holds us up. People think grandparents will be doing the child care, and they are not anymore.”

Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women, had a similar sentiment: “Increasingly with every generation and every year even, it gets more unrealistic as a source of child care because the cost of living is so high and older people have to work later into life, increasingly so,” she said. “And it’s certainly not available to working class people whose parents, like in our generation, still have to work two jobs until they die.”

One of the challenges I encountered while working on this story was quantifying how common it is locally to have grandparents provide child care so parents can work. The closest numbers I could find came from an AARP survey on grandparents and data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The former talked about the many roles that grandparents report playing in their grandchildren’s lives; 38% of respondents said one of their roles is to babysit or provide day care. This was a national number, not a Hawai‘i number. The U.S. Census Bureau data focused on Hawai‘i grandparents who provide child care for their grandchildren and are responsible for their basic needs.

Many of the parents and grandparents I spoke with had lessons to share about their experiences. They acknowledge that while that care brought families together, it also creates some tensions, such as when there are differences in parenting styles. A section of the story is dedicated to sharing parents’ advice, so other parents and grandparents can learn from them.

I spent a month working on this story. Although the struggles of balancing family and work is not a new topic, I wanted to explain my process so readers can get a better understanding of how we do our work at the magazine. I welcome your feedback; feel free to let me know if you have other questions, or to tell me what you liked/didn’t like.

Email Noelle Fujii-Oride at 



Categories: How We Work