Mariska Hargitay handles the toughest situations as detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
But adding another child to her brood – she and husband Peter Hermann adopted daughter Amaya Josephine in April, joining big brother August, 4½ – is a challenge like no other, she tells PEOPLE.
“It’s a new skill to have two children that want you at the same time,” Hargitay told PEOPLE Tuesday her foundation’s event, How Will You Join? The Joyful Revolution 4th Annual Gala to benefit the Joyful Heart Foundation.
While Hargitay has spoken of the joy Amaya brings her, she also doesn’t gloss over the work it takes.
“Sometimes … I wanted to rip my hair out,” she says. “Where I’m like, ‘August! Amaya! August! Amaya!’ You don’t know what to do.”
“So … [it's my] first time with two-children syndrome and I’m trying to figure it all out. But so far everyone’s been pretty good.”
Amaya, she says, is “spectacular. She is dreamy. I am not going to lie: It was very difficult leaving the house tonight. It’s very difficult leaving the house anytime with my baby at home. But for this it’s worth it.”
Worth it in part, she says, because of “the statistics of nearly four children [dying] every day in this country due to child abuse and neglect,” as well as the startling prevalence sexual assault that her foundation is working to change.
Hargitay needn’t worry too much about leaving home, though, with August to watch over his baby sister.
“He is so protective,” she says. “He is a little bit like the gate-keeper of her. He’s been really amazing … so affectionate. He says, ‘I’m going to be her protector.’ And something else. Teacher. Guider and protector. She gets a lot of kisses.”
The actress, 47, isn’t just suffering from two-child syndrome. She’s also got a hit show to worry about. But she says she’s going to start slowly reducing her role to find more balance in her life.
“I’m so madly in love and married to my show,” she says. “This foundation has come out of it. But it’s been very difficult for me with two kids, so what I wanted this year in terms of my deal was lifestyle issues … I needed more time with my kids. So I will be working a little bit less and eventually getting a little promotion, so we are going to bring on a new detective.”
– Sara Hammel with reporting by Jenisha Watts