Country Legend Dolly Parton loves kids, there’s no doubt about that, but when asked why she never had any of her own, the answer is simple: It wasn’t in God’s plan.
Over the years, fans have wondered why the “Jolene” singer and her husband of more than 50 years, Carl Dean, never chose to become parents. Parton has even asked herself the same question. In 2014 she told The Guardian that she and Dean did talk about expanding their family when they first got married in 1966, but her health issues got in the way. “If we’d had a girl, she was gonna be called Carla … Anyway, we talked about it, and we dreamed it, but it wasn’t meant to be,” she said.
In her thirties, Parton underwent a partial hysterectomy and found out she couldn’t have children. “Suddenly I was a middle-aged woman. I went through a dark time, until I made myself snap out of it,” Dolly said in an interview, according to Made For Mums. “We never did think of adopting,” she added. “I guess I didn’t have the time. I had my career and all, I had younger brothers and sisters, so I had that responsibility and that joy and that duty.”
Dolly Parton is 'the perfect babysitter'
Dolly Parton has always been a favorite aunt, a cool grandmother, and a fun babysitter. Let’s not forget that she’s godmother to Miley Cyrus! Parton has talked about dealing with other people’s kids, telling The Huffington Post: “I’m the perfect grandma, I’m the perfect aunt, I’m the perfect babysitter, because I don’t have children. So I bring them over to visit me by choice. They don’t get dumped on me. And when I do keep them, if they get out of line, all I have to do is imply that I’ll take them home or call their mom to come get them.”
Not only is Parton drawn to kids, but kiddos love her, and she knows why! “I have that high-pitched voice … I look like Mother Goose or one of those over-exaggerated characters, and kids just relate to that,” she explained to Today in 2017. “You wouldn’t believe my place!” she told The Times U.K. in 2010. “I got tree houses. I got caves. I love to babysit ’cause it gives me a chance to play.”
Dolly Parton became 'the book lady' to millions of kids
Dolly Parton has dedicated a big part of her life to caring for kids. In 1990, she founded a nonprofit organization called the Imagination Library, a community-based reading initiative that mails a free book every month to children from the time they’re born until the age of 5. Her charity has donated more than 100 million books and earned her a nickname — “the book lady.” The library’s literacy mission is very personal to Parton. “My dad and a lot of my relatives that grew up hard too, big families, they couldn’t actually get a chance to go to school, because they had to work,” she told CNBC. “My daddy couldn’t read and write.”
Parton’s work for kids doesn’t end there. In 2017, she released a children’s album titled I Believe in You. Many of the songs are personal and address important social issues, like how to stop bullying and how to be responsible. Parton told The Huffington Post that releasing a children’s album has been a goal of hers for quite some time. “I’ve had children’s songs by the stacks for years,” she said. “I write songs for Imagination Library with all the books that we put out and then I write personal songs for my little nieces and nephews and friends, so it just seemed to be a good time.”
Dolly Parton enjoys her 'second childhood' as 'Aunt Granny'
Talking with the Today show in 2017, Dolly Parton said fate led her to become a mother to many children, instead of just a mother to her own children. “God has a plan for everything,” she said. “I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine. And they are now.” Her nieces and nephews call “Aunt Granny,” and through them, Parton says she is now enjoying her “second childhood.”
Parton celebrated her 74th birthday in 2020, and she’s on top of the world. The queen of country has a booming music career and is surrounded by her loving family members and countless fans. In some ways, she’s glad it’s just her and husband Carl Dean in their big Nashville home. “Now that Carl and I are older, we often say, ‘Aren’t you glad we didn’t have kids? Now we don’t have kids to worry about,'” she told Billboard in 2014.
So there you have it, and if you’re suddenly wishing Dolly was your “Aunt Granny” too, you can listen to her read one of her favorite books, The Little Engine That Could, courtesy of the Imagination Library.
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