Two Parents Is Too Little

Differences in parenting between Sri Lanka and the UK
10 min readMay 26


I have left my children in Sri Lanka which means they’re down to zero parents now. But they’re not. They’re with two sets of grandparents and one set of great-grandparents and two maids and a cook and a driver and two guards that follow them while they pretend to walk down the street ‘by themselves’. They say it takes a village and we’ve got one.

We have a huge extended family because we’re Asian, servants are because we’re (collectively) rich, and the guards are because our beloved uncle was assassinated (and thus the extended family is in massive pain, which is perhaps the price for this closeness). This is my life and it’s a strange one, not a prescription or a recommendation. There’s this strange western idea that there must be one lifestyle for everyone and you must put it in a magazine (or blog, as the case may be). That’s not my point at all. This is just one data point among many, if you want to be scientific about it (which I think is a terrible way to think about family). It’s just my experience and how it connects to yours, well, you connect the dots.

Married With Children

When we first got married we were in the wedding car and my wife immediately called her parents. I said, “We’ve been married for 10 minutes! Can’t you spend time with me?” I didn’t get it and honestly couldn’t get it for years.

Before we had kids I wanted to live far from her family compound, where we could ‘be independent’, whatever that means. Her uncle, the late Dinesh, even gave us land to build a house in the city, but he counseled us not to. He said it was better to be close to family. I was stubborn as ever but for some reason we listened. And when we (somewhat unexpectedly) had children, I was so glad for his advice.

There are many reasons to live in multi-generational households, but the most important is the raising multiple generations. Two hands is just too few to raise up a child, four is barely adequate, and in truth you need a forest of fingers to clean all the butts and wipe all the tears and tickle all the tummies that bringing up a baby requires. And it goes two ways. The child raises up the family, especially the elders, who frankly lose their minds. If…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at