During a conversation with Oprah Winfrey for Winfrey's AppleTV+ series The Oprah Conversation, country legend Dolly Parton opened up about why she never had children with her husband Carl Dean. The Today Show shared an exclusive clip from the interview.
"I've made sacrifices...but I believe that I know what I'm supposed to do. But you've got to make the sacrifice," Parton said. "Since I had no kids and my husband was pretty independent, I had freedom. I think a big part of my whole success is the fact that I was free to work and 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 the Imagination Library. Because if I hadn't had the freedom to work I wouldn't have done all the things I've done and I wouldn't be in a position to do all the things I'm doing now."
This isn't the first time Parton has discussed the topic.
In 2017, Parton appeared on the Today Show to talk about her Imagination Library and her 2017 children's album. Parton explained that she believed having children wasn't in God's plan for her. She knows she was meant to be a Fairy Godmother figure to children. (Her neices and nephews all called her "Aunt Granny.")
"Well God has a plan for everything," the country star told former Today anchor Matt Lauer. "But I said that I think probably it was his plan for me not to have kids so everybody's kids could be mine, and they are now!"
Lauer also asked the "Jolene" singer about how she got her gift for working with kids. According to Parton, it comes from growing up with her large family in the Smoky Mountains. Her mother Avie Lee Parton had a full house.
"Well, I grew up in a whole big bunch of kids, eight kids younger than me and I just love kids," she replied, referencing her upbringing as the oldest of nine children in her family. "I have that high-pitched voice I'm over-exaggerated, I look like Mother Goose or you know one of those over-exaggerated cartoon characters and kids just kinda relate to that."
When asked about her childlike nature, Parton naturally had a clever response. "I do think I'm child-like but that's different than childish! In fact somebody said, 'Why'd you wait so long to put this album out?' and I said, 'I want to wait until I was in my second childhood so I'm pretty much there now!'"
Parton's children's album, I Believe in You, contains 13 songs and an additional spoken track where Dolly narrates her story, Coat of Many Colors. It's clear that despite not having children, the country legend is passionate about supporting them. Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is an organization that encourages literacy by sending one free book a month to a child from birth to age five.
The rhinestone bedazzled country singer also brings joy to children across Tennessee every day with her Dollywood theme park. She's also famously the godmother to Miley Cyrus.
This post was previously published on October 19, 2017. It was updated on November 12, 2020 to include Parton's conversation with Oprah Winfrey.