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The Real Reason Dolly Parton Never Had Children - “I Went Through a Dark Time”
Dolly Parton
Life Stories

The Real Reason Dolly Parton Never Had Children - “I Went Through a Dark Time”

The loving, genuine, and magnetic Dolly Parton used to sing barefoot on her front porch knowing she was destined to be a great star. But she had no idea she wasnt going to be a mother.

Dolly Parton may not have had children, but to millions across the world, she is the epitome of a caring mom.

At the young age of 10, Dolly started performing on local television and radio shows in Knoxville, Tennessee, showcasing her singing and guitar playing abilities.  And the rest is history…

When it comes to her personal life, the singer likes to keep things as private as possible. However, the Queen of Country, recently spoke about her long-lasting marriage to husband Carl Dean, a topic she seldom talks about publicly. 

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey for Today, Parton revealed the real reason why the couple decided not to have children. Parton and Dean have been together for 54 years, having tied the knot in 1966 after falling in love at first sight when Parton was only 18. Although the couple initially thought about having kids of their own, it didn't turn out the way they originally thought.

Dolly Used To Wonder What Her Children Would Look Like

Dolly Parton applying lipstick on a bus.

In a recent interview with Glamour UK, Parton revealed that she and her husband did consider having children when they were first married. Growing up in a family of twelve, with eight younger siblings, it seemed natural to think about having a big family.

Parton says, "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." 

RELATED: Why Dolly Parton Had To Fight For Her 54-Year Marriage With Carl Thomas Dean

The singer admitted she still thinks about what her children might have looked like, "You always wonder. My husband and I, when we first got married, we thought about if we had kids, what would they look like? Would they be tall – because he's tall? Or would they be little squats like me?"

Now that she and her husband are older, Parton feels confident in their decision not to have kids. While she believes she would have been a great mother, she also knows that it would have required her to give up on her career aspirations. So yes, Dolly made a decision about not having children. However, it wasn’t entirely her decision.

The Real Reason Why Dolly Parton Didn’t Have Children

Dolly Parton's battle with endometriosis, a painful condition that can cause infertility, is the main reason why she never had children. To alleviate her symptoms, she underwent a partial hysterectomy in 1984. The surgery involves the removal of the uterus and part of the cervix. 

Although Parton has not discussed the condition or the operation in detail, she revealed that she went through a severe depression following the procedure and even considered taking her life. In 2008, she told reporters that it was an extremely difficult period in her life. "Suddenly I was a middle-aged woman. I went through a dark time, until I made myself snap out of it," Dolly explained.

Dolly Was Troubled at First but Knew It Wasn’t Meant to Be

Black and white photo of Dolly Parton writing and sitting on a bench.

The news that she was unable to bear children was devastating, and the singer struggled with the realization that she was now "a middle-aged woman," but she eventually pulled herself out of her misery. It wasn’t meant to be, so she had to move on.

Although she and her husband could have chosen to adopt, Parton's career and responsibilities to her younger siblings kept her occupied. Despite not having kids of her own, Parton has a special connection with children, who are drawn to her high-pitched voice and her resemblance to Mother Goose. "Kids just relate to that," she says.

Now, Dolly Considers Herself a Mother to All Kids

Dolly Parton in all white sitting outside.

Parton was raised with 11 other siblings in a one-bedroom home, so she grew up with a deep family bond. Even after they left the family cottage in the Appalachian mountains, several of her siblings lived with her at the start of her career. 

RELATED: How Dolly Parton Saved Miley Cyrus’ Life in Her Darkest Hour

In time, the singer became a devoted aunt to her nieces and nephews, treating them like her own children. She fondly remembers being called "Aunt Granny" by them, while her husband was known as "Uncle PeePaw."

"I've loved their kids just like they're my grandkids, and now I've got great-grand-kids! [...] Now I'm GeeGee, which is great-granny. I often think, it just wasn't meant for me to have kids so everybody's kids can be mine."

According to Parton, her decision not to have kids allowed her to have the freedom to work and pursue projects that help children all around the world. Her 2017 album, I Believe in You, is another statement of her love for little ones.

Dolly Parton Gives Back in More Ways

Dolly Parton reading to two children.

Dolly Parton remains keenly aware of the hardships of growing up poor and is passionate about giving back. She donates both her time and financial resources to a variety of charitable organizations. In 1995, she founded the Dollywood Foundation, a nonprofit behind the Imagination Library. The organization's primary mission is to promote literacy and provide one book per month to children from birth to five years of age, regardless of their family's income. So far more than 100 million free books were sent to children!

The Dollywood Foundation has also helped families affected by the devastating wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Through her My People Fund, Parton personally pledged $1,000 per month for six months to the newly homeless victims, urging others to join her in supporting the affected families on Facebook. 

RELATED: Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Promises To Give Away Most of His Money — He Starts By Giving $100M to Dolly Parton

Parton has also joined forces with the Herschend Brothers, the founders of Silver Dollar City, to create Dollywood - one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tennessee. The theme park features numerous shows and rides, including the world's fastest wooden roller coaster and a stunning water park.

In 2010, Dollywood received the Liseberg Applause Award, the top theme park award in the amusement park industry. That year, Dollywood was the only U.S.-based theme park nominated for the award. Since the majority of Dollywood's employees are local residents, the theme park is vital to the community and is the area's largest employer. 

Dolly Loves Her Marriage Just the Way It Is

Dolly Parton and husband Carl Dean kissing her on the cheek.

On her first day in Nashville, Dolly met Carl Dean, and they have been together ever since. They tied the knot in 1966, and despite Dolly's busy career, their love has endured. When asked about the secret to their long-lasting marriage, Dolly jokes, "Forty-seven of those years I was gone". But the truth is their love is real. 

Even if she doesn’t have children of her own, be it by the hands of fate or not, Parton loves her marriage just the way it is. She dedicates her love and time to all the kids in her family and to all those she helps through her charity work. 

Maybe she wasn’t meant to be a “typical” mom. But in true Dolly style, she does it her way by taking millions of children under her wings and giving them a new chance.

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