Does Dolly Parton Have Kids? Inside the Country Icon’s Family Life With Husband Carl Dean

Her list of titles seems to go on longer than a telephone book, but there is one Dolly Parton is missing: Mother. Throughout her incredible, decades-long career, fans have always wondered why the beloved icon and her husband, Carl Dean, never had any children.

Why Didn’t Dolly Parton Have Children?

“I didn’t have children because I believe that God didn’t mean for me to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine, so I could do things like [my charity] Imagination Library,” Dolly said during an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2020. “If I hadn’t had the freedom to work, I wouldn’t have done all the things I’ve done. I wouldn’t be in a position to do all of the things I’m doing now.”

Dolly made a similar comment in an exclusive interview with Closer in 2017. “God has a plan for everything and I think it probably was His plan for me not to have kids, so that everybody’s kids could be mine,” she shared.

The country icon also battled infertility issues in her 30s. She was diagnosed with endometriosis and underwent a partial hysterectomy to alleviate some of the pain. “It was an awful time for me,” she admitted. “Every day I thought, ‘I wish I had the nerve to kill myself.’”

Usa Academy Awards - Mar 2006

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Did Dolly Parton Want Kids?

Despite having her hands full as one of the busiest performers in country music, Dolly revealed she and Carl — who tied the knot more than 55 years ago in 1966 — actually toyed with the idea of having children. “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?’” the “Jolene” songstress shared with Glamour U.K. in 2014.

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Dolly even dished the couple would’ve named their child “Carla” had it been a girl. “Anyway, we talked about it, and we dreamed it, but it wasn’t meant to be,” she stated to the outlet, adding that she and Carl are actually happy with their decision to refrain from having kids. “Now that we’re older? We’re glad.”

Looking back, the Heartstrings star said although she thinks she “would have been a great mother,” she would’ve been forced to take a step back in terms of her Hollywood superstardom. “I would probably have given up everything else. Because I would’ve felt guilty about that, if I’d have left them,” Dolly explained. “Everything would have changed. I probably wouldn’t have been a star.”

While Dolly and Carl never got the chance to experience the joys of parenting, the “Islands in the Stream” singer ensured she and her longtime hubby most definitely aren’t lonely. “We always had a lot of family around,” Dolly told the Daily Mail in December 2018 of their closest loved ones, including goddaughter Miley Cyrus. “A lot of my younger siblings came to live with my husband and me in Nashville and some of them went to school there.”



The Grammy winner pointed out she’s also “worked with so many kids” through her non-profit organization, Imagination Library. “So my husband and I don’t regret it,” she insisted.

“We think about it sometimes and say, ‘Lord, if we had some kids and grandkids now, they’d be driving us crazy!’” Dolly quipped at the time. “So this way, we just get to be each other’s kids.”

Dolly and Carl, who renewed their wedding vows for their 50th anniversary in 2016, are very close to all of her siblings’ kids. “I’ve loved their kids just like they’re my grandkids, and now I’ve got great-grandkids!” the Steel Magnolias star gushed to People in May 2014.

She went on to say that her nieces and nephews and their kids refer to Carl as their “Uncle PeePaw” while they call her “Aunt Granny” and “GeeGee.” Her relationship with her family was one of the main motivators when it came time to work on her 2017 children’s album I Believe in You. All proceeds from the album supported the country superstar’s Imagination Library program, a non-profit that encourages literacy by providing children with free books.

What Happened to the Baby Left on Dolly Parton’s Doorstep?

In 2011, Dolly opened up about a wild fan encounter that she experienced when her song “Jolene” was at its peak in the 1970s.

“We came home one day and there was a baby in a box at our gate with a note in it,” she revealed. “The note said, ‘My name is Jolene, my mama has left me here and she wants you to have me.’” Of course we all freaked out! We immediately called Human Services and took care of the baby until they got there.”

Dolly admitted that she never heard anything else about the infant and did not want to be involved in the situation after police arrived. “What do you do in a situation like that?” she wondered. “There are some loony people in this world.”

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