Despite coming from a big family, Dolly Parton has never had children of her own. The country star has 11 brothers and sisters who have children that she treats as her own.
In a 2014 interview with People, Parton shared, “I grew up in a big old family with eight kids younger than me and several of my brothers and sisters came to live with me early on in my life. I’ve loved their kids just like they’re my grandkids, and now I’ve got great-grand-kids!”
Parton goes by Aunt Granny to her nieces and nephews, and her husband, Carl Dean, goes by Uncle Peepaw. She says, “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.”
Parton Says She’s ‘Mother Goose’ to Children
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Parton joked that children love her because she’s like Mother Goose. “I’m like a cartoon character. I’m over-exaggerated with my look and my voice is over-exaggerated and high-pitched like a kid and I’m joyful with kids and they feel that, too. They feel that I love ’em.”
The Jolene singer continued, “Well, yeah. 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.”
The singer explains that when she first got married, she and Dean considered having children. They even picked out the name Carla if they had a girl. Now that they’re older, they say they’re glad not to have children.
“I would have been a great mother, I think. I would probably have given up everything else. Because I would’ve felt guilty about that, if I’d have left them [to work, to tour]. Everything would have changed. I probably wouldn’t have been a star.”
Parton & Her 11 Siblings Grew up in Rural Tennessee
Parton and her siblings grew up in Tennessee in a poor area of rural Appalachia. Musically inclined from a young age, Parton began performing at 10. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut at 13.
From oldest to youngest, the Parton family consists of Willadeene, David Wilburn, Coy Denver, Dolly Rebecca, Bobby Lee, Stella Mae, Cassie Nan, Randel Huston “Randy,” Larry Gerald, Estel Floyd, and twins Freida Estelle and Rachel Ann.
In their adult years, Parton often performed with her brother, Larry, until he passed away in 2018 at age 61. Her sister, Stella, is both an actress and musician today, and appeared alongside Parton in the 2015 television movie “Coat of Many Colors”.
Siblings Cassie and Freida are also singers, and the former preformed in the Dollywood show “My People” in 2013.
Her younger sister, Rachel, starred with her in the ABC sitcom 9 to 5 from 1982 to 1988.
Parton once famously said, “I see so much of my family in the things that I do. And I love and embrace that.”