Canadians value family life, but "family" means different things to different people. For many, it means a mother, a father and one or more children. However, in 13% of Canadian families, there is only one parent. Some families include grandparents, cousins or other relatives. Other families consist of two men or two women living together, with or without children. Sometimes adult children continue to live in the family home, rather than starting households of their own.
Marriage is usually a major celebration for Canadian families. Family members from all generations gather to celebrate and honour the newlyweds. However, more and more couples today choose to live together in a common-law relationship, instead of marrying. In most provinces this type of relationship is given some legal recognition. Throughout Canada, 14% of all marriages are common-law; the percentage is about 25% in Quebec.
As in most Western countries, divorce is accepted as a way of ending an unhappy marriage. Divorce creates new types of families, such as stepfamilies, blended families, and single-parent families. Most single-parent families are headed by the mother.
In many families, both parents work outside the home. Although in general women do more housework than men, some Canadian fathers help look after children and do housework. In families where both parents work full-time outside the home, children are cared for during the day by grandparents, neighbours, nannies or babysitters or at daycare centres.
Today, 12% of Canadas population is over 65 and the proportion of senior citizens is expected to increase in the 21st century. Canadian seniors receive government benefits. Some move to retirement communities in Canada or the southern United States, but most seniors live in their own homes. A growing family trend is known as the "sandwich generation". These are middle-aged parents who have children still at home and who have elderly parents who need their help.
Home ownership is important to Canadians. Canadian housing varies from row houses and apartments in urban centres to large houses on spacious lots in suburban areas or in rural areas or small towns. Many people prefer to live outside large cities and commute to work by car, bus, or train. Most Canadians who live outside a city consider a car a necessity.