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Marvyn Harrison is the founder of Dope Black Dads, a diversity, equality and inclusion consultant and father of two. Dope Black Dads was set up to offer support to fathers but has evolved into something else. It’s a space to challenge outdated stereotypes about Black fatherhood and has become a progressive and inclusive community of parents where fathers can talk about their experiences with honesty and openness. The podcast created off the back of the group is truly special. Marvyn joined Gi to chat about his childhood, watching his wife Nina become a mother, his expectations of parenthood and so much more.

Growing up in Hackney in the 90s, Marvyn was surrounded by an “all-singing, all dancing, amazing food, your family friends are your cousins, very close-knit family”. He describes his family as very “matriarch led” and adds that he was “completely in the bosom of amazing women”. Whenever anything goes wrong, it’s these women he hears, in the ‘beautiful sound of patois’ reminding him of who he is and what his values are.

 

Not healthy fuel

Fatherhood was always something he thought about, but, Marvyn explained, the reason for this stemmed from his own father not being particularly present in his life. He wanted to “repair what I felt he had broken and I don’t think that’s really healthy fuel”. When Nina was pregnant with their son though, everything changed.

Marvyn told Gi: “It was more about him. It was about who he could be. I also changed my idea of parenting from like ‘I am your parent’ to ‘I’m your guardian’ which is a different way of looking at it. The more I met him, the more I understood he was someone already. I think inherently I believed children were just like an extension of me and so my job was to sculpt them into the better version of me. But they’re not.

 

I’ve learned what love actually is

He added: “And anyone that has children will know that their children very clearly and very quickly have their own personality. You see the consistent thread of their personality as they grow older and you realise that it’s not just environmental and it’s not DNA. It’s just they are their own spirit and it’s incredibly beautiful to discover. And I think in that I’ve learned what love actually is.”

When his son was born, Marvyn described being “overwhelmed”. Being a parent quickly became “the number one context for his existence”. He remembers it being all he talked about in the office and it becoming a big part of his identity. But despite his pride and excitement, he recalls “standing still, staring, being scared to put in what my gift was”. Marvyn recalls that he struggled to be the non-birthing partner and figure out what that meant. In Dope Black Dads, he wanted to create a space to explore that.

 

I thought fatherhood was easy

But is fatherhood what Marvyn expected? Not at all. “I thought fatherhood was easy. I thought it was me just as I was being loved just for who I am! But they’re their own people. I just thought that they would kneel into my way of being and my perspective. And they don’t. They reject it sometimes. They don’t want to do things and so sometimes I’m coaching my son and he’s like ‘I don’t want to be coached, just give me a hug’ or ‘leave me alone’. You just you can see in his face. They’re like ‘don’t tell me Instagram quotables right now. I don’t want your power speech’.

“I thought I would just be this person and my kids would love me for it. But sometimes you just got to be the bad person. You got to be someone that they don’t enjoy to create the boundaries that they need to be better people”.

 

Listen now

Listen to the whole chat on the Happy Mum Happy Baby Podcast wherever you find your podcasts or watch the whole conversation below.

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