DEAR AMY: I have a 4-year-old daughter. Her father and I separated when she was 1, but he and his family have always been very loving and involved in her life. She spends two days a week with them, goes on special outings, and they always watch her when she is too ill to go to day care. I am expecting another daughter this summer. Her father left me for another woman when I was 10 weeks pregnant. He blocked my phone number. He has not contacted me in over four months. It especially bothers me (aside from my broken heart) because he has three teenage daughters he is quite close to, so he is fully aware of what he is giving up. It appears that he and his family are going to pretend that this baby girl does not exist. My question is: How do I compensate for his absence, so that my younger daughter does not feel less loved or wanted than her older sister? What do I tell her when she is old enough to notice the differences?
DEAR WORRIED: First, you must do what you can to ensure that the father of your younger child steps up, at least in terms of financially providing for his child. You should also contact his parents to make sure they are aware of this baby and that you are open to the child having a relationship with them.
Aside from this, compensation for this unhealthy situation will happen every day and in many ways. I hope your 4-year-old's grandparents will treat your baby with the same love and devotion they show your older daughter. This would be ideal.
Because you don't live with either father, you will start to describe this when your younger daughter is around 3. Tell her she has a dad and say his name. Tell her he decided to stay away before she was born. Don't lead with your heartbreak, and answer questions truthfully and neutrally. Tell her the names of all the people -- aunts and uncles, friends and family -- who know and love her.
One key relationship will be the one between your two daughters. Encourage them to always be kind, loving and close.