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Bought a house, so I must want kids?

By Audrey Irvine, CNN
A tour of her new house opens doors to questions that gave Audrey Irvine pause.
A tour of her new house opens doors to questions that gave Audrey Irvine pause.
  • Audrey Irvine opened her new house to family and friends for her birthday party
  • Friends saw two spare bedrooms as a chance to ask her about having children
  • The questions made her wonder if the house would lead to marriage, kids, dog
  • Decides next birthday, she would borrow a dog to really get people talking
  • Family
  • Real Estate
  • Marriage

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Birthdays are always a good time for reflection. My 20s were mostly fun times, hanging out and risk-taking professionally.

My 30s were about really focusing on the career and traveling to places I finally had some money to afford.

Now, one year into my 40s, I'm blessed with home ownership and the realization that I am officially a "grown-up." The childish mistakes that you could laugh off in your 20s and consider a growing experience in your 30s should now be gone by 40.

When you're dating after 40, the reaction you get from family and friends on your birthday is also totally different.

I decided to have my latest birthday party at my new house. It was a nice gathering of family and friends, including the man that I have been dating for a couple of months.

For some of my family and friends, it was the first time they were seeing my newly purchased home. I was excited to show folks my proud accomplishment of home ownership.

Each group that I showed around the house --regardless of age or gender -- had the same question when they saw the two spare bedrooms.

"So, what do you plan to do with THESE bedrooms?"

I pondered the question each time, realizing I couldn't say I'd use it as an office since I had one set up downstairs. My answers varied from "how about a guest room" to "possibly a home gym" to "I really don't know."

Their reaction each and every time was exactly the same: "How about some kids?" My first response was "with whom?" -- seriously, I am not married -- then I realized they were referring to my new beau.

I started stammering and was slightly embarrassed, especially when he was in my presence for some of these questions.

It seems folks get really comfortable with certain questions after you pass that important milestone of 40.

I gave all the right answers: that buying a house made more sense than a townhouse in this market, I realized the amount of equity I could get buying in this neighborhood and of course the first-time home buyer credit was too much to pass up.

No one seemed interested in those answers, so the conversation quickly changed to something else.

After all, if I were in my 20s or 30s and dating, the house likely would have been viewed by most as a great investment. Also, it's not to say that these questions about marriage didn't occur in those earlier years. But somehow in your 40s, a choice had to be made.

Society does seem to put an enormous amount of pressure on women once they hit the later years of childbearing age. Assumptions are made that every personal decision is a reflection of your desire to have, or not have, children.

So, needless to say, my friends and family saw my house as a symbol of my last-ditch effort to claim a white picket fenced yard filled with kids. These were all questions that I never expected to confront at a casual birthday barbecue.

The questions -- but more importantly my reaction -- made me consider the possibility that I did subconsciously purchase this house hoping that I would fill those bedrooms with kids instead of workout equipment. Was I, in fact, laying the groundwork for the future I hoped to have -- of marriage, children and a dog?

At the closing attorney's office the day I bought the house, I remember being more interested in the incredible investment I just made.

After all the birthday party guests had left, I asked my beau if the questions about children made him feel uncomfortable.

He smartly answered "no" and seemed surprised that I never expected that question to come up. I quickly pointed out to him that if the roles were reversed, I didn't think that people would make that assumption with a man.

So, I might have another barbecue for the Fourth of July. Just to make things interesting and confuse folks, I might just rent a dog and watch the assumptions begin.

Editor's note: Audrey Irvine is a senior assignment manager for CNN. Her experiences in the dating world inspire her "Relationship Rant" column. Check back every week for her take on dating and relationships.