Madonna says she canceled planned tour dates in Australia early next year because she needs to spend time with her four children.

The concerts would have been her first in Australia in 20 years, E! News said.

"So, I just want to say to all of my Australian fans that I am really and truly sorry to have disappointed you, and that's something that I don't feel very good about," Madonna said in an audio message posted on her Web site Monday.

"I know the last time I was on tour, I missed Australia as well, and I can promise you in my heart of hearts that it was my intention to come again, but like the last time, my children are my first priority. I have two scales that I have to weigh in front of me -- my job as a singer and entertainer, and my job as a mother," she explained.

"Because my children are older, I can't take them on the road with me everywhere. I have to spend more time away from them and at the end of the year I really feel that I would be an irresponsible parent if I didn't stop my tour and spend time with them. ... I feel really bad because I don't take your love and support for me for granted ... that goes for my fans everywhere in the world. ... I know a lot of you are angry with me, upset with me, disappointed. So, please forgive me, and know that when I do come to Australia, I will have made the wait worth your while and I will put on the greatest show on Earth. I haven't forgotten about you and I hope that you can understand and forgive me and, also, I just want to say that I love you, all of you, everyone in Australia, and I hope to get there very soon."

The music icon began her "MDNA" concert tour in Israel May 31.

Perth Now said the Australian leg of her tour was to start in January, with stops scheduled in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The series will now wrap in Argentina Dec. 22.