Mariska Hargitay: Learning to Parent Two Kids Is a ‘New Skill’

05/18/2011 at 04:00 PM ET
Kevin Mazur/Wireimage

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

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Stephanie on

Good for her! Glad she has such a supportive show where she can change her schedule around to accommodate her growing family. She’s a blessed lady to have that opportunity.

Jen DC on

She sounds really fulfilled with a great home life and a great professional life.

@ Stephanie: She *is* lucky – but she also asked for a change! Everyone should assess their working situations and find out (if it’s of interest to them) whether flex time is available. That’s the only way it’s going to become normalized in our culture.

T. on

Most Women have more than two kids and have to work two job to support their family, they don’t get to just say I need to work less and get paid the same amount.

If she hates leaving her kids to go out at night why does she do it so often. I just saw photos of her out the night before her foundations gala at the NBC upfront and then later that night to an HBO show premier and after party. Does she need more time to spend with her “family” or go to more galas and after parties???

Suzanne on

I think Mariska is one of the classiest women on tv. The fact that she wants to be with her sweet children makes that even more true. I love her character on SVU but I like her as a person even more. Those little ones are very lucky to have a mama like her. I am a grandma of 3 little boys and my daughter puts her children first also and I am very proud of her.

Claire on

It’s brilliant that she’s so happy….but NOOO don’t leave SVU! A little part of me just died hearing that

Lady on

LOVE HER!!! The SVU finale was great last night, kind of upset they killed off Sister Peg though…should have saved the Jennifer Love Hewitt episode for last!

romie on

Good for her. I wish her and her family the best.

Joan Burdette on

I love watching her on Law and Order and hope she doesn’t have to quit the show ever. However,I do admire her for wanting to spend more time with her family.I was a single mother of 6 children and was forced to work a full time job and 1-2 part time jobs to raise them. No child support!! I had someone to care for them when I was working but I missed out on so much of their lives.You can never regain those years,so Mariska is doing the right thing. Treasure the time you have with your children.Good luck!!

samantha on

I love Mariska!! everyone forgets she had a childhood without a mother…Jayne Mansfield was her mother and she and her brother were in the backseat of the car when her mother, Jayne, was killed in an horrific accident…She’s an amazing person and will be a wonderful mother ..she’s a survivor and has had the support and love of her father her whole life! I admire her and hope she continues in her t.v. show…she makes it special!! ❤

amyjoy on

@T, I know a lot of mothers who work very hard, but I know very few who have more than two children and who are working two jobs to support them. We also have no way of knowing if Mariska is making the same amount of money for working less hours. But if she is, so what? She has worked long and hard on SVU, and has earned her salary. Most people I know are able to negotiate better hours and pay after being an integral part of a company. Kudos to her for making adjustments to get the balance that she needs!

I would also guess that she is on hiatus right now from filming since the season is over, and is most likely with her children most of the day. There is nothing wrong with going out at night – especially when the events are directly related to her job and things that she cares about.

Barbara on

People like Mariska make me sick because they want children yet are not willing to make time for them. Their income is more important than parenting. Parenting properly takes your time so stop boasting over how you saved those children. Raise them properly and be a mother at home to develop them properly. Yes, you must sacrifice to do that but it’s so worth it.

Siera on

Barbara how exactly do you know how much time Mariska spends with her kids? Are with her every second of every day? Just because she goes out at night to charity events and galas does not mean she doesn’t spend enough time for kids. Would you rather she go stir crazy?

Angi on

@Barbara,are you serious? Mariska has created a foundation for sexual assault victims,has a good marriage grounded in God and obviously adores her children very much.

If people like her make you sick,then I would hate to see who you admire.

So happy to see Mariska do wonderful things with her life. I’m sure her family is very proud of her.

Alma on

Why do everybody in Hollywood have their children so late ??

qL on

Ha! The two-children syndrome! In which case, it’s back to the drawing board for me — one kid or two… hmmm 🙂 Mariska definitely keep us updated as to whether it gets easier!

Jennifer on

alma….most celebrities have children late or not at all because it will ruin their figure and their careers. If they don’t look good and skinny they get no jobs. The American public doesn’t want to see fat and ugly people on screen if they wanted to see that they could just go to the mall and look at the general public.

Abby on

Oh T, isn’t that the point? Don’t have more than 2 children if you can’t really afford to?

I guess that’s a whole other argument, but you’re hate to Mariska is SO so misguided here.

hayley w on

get a grip barbara my mother worked 4 jobs when i was little and let you tell me i am in no way ill effected by it , in fact if any thing it taught me the value of hard work and gave me the right start in life

in my opinion wayyyy to many mums stay at home claiming every ounce of hand out they can get claiming its for the children when really its because they are lazy buggers they pop out kid after kid just to get even more money in the uk we are full of them its horrid and if you think they are better mums because they stay at home your so so mistaken.

i work i work bloody hard and my children will grow up the same way i did knowing the value of a hard days work and what it can give you, what it teaches you i am a better mother because i work , don’t dare tell me in not

we are women as well as mothers thanks very much we worked hard for the right to work and to think some women still think they only thing we are good for is breeding and cooking is stupid!

T. on

@amyjoy–Well, Lisa E from HOUSE had to quit becasue they wanted her to take a paycut as well as cut her screen time. If an actor/actress screen time is cut so should the money they make. Apprear on screen for 5 min and getting close to $400,000 is outragous in my opinion!

I can only go by what TV Guide says she is making for the 13th season, I bet it is much more. Then to complain that she does not get to spend enough time with her kids when in fact she has them on set with her. How many people in “real life” gets to do that??? Not many I would guess. I have nothing against Mariska I think she is great, but come on, if you don’t want to put in the hours then quit and let an actress that wants to work go it.

romie on

She’s found a happy medium that allows her be a better parent while staying on the show she loves. Where is the drama here? I don’t see it.

On another note…Why do people constantly complain about how much money stars make? The entertainment industry is big money. WE made it that way. Mariska has star power on the show. Why not get what she’s worth. The big wigs behind the scene are surely getting theirs.

If the big money from this industry translated to whatever industry you are in I’m sure you’d be going after what you were worth too.

Anne on

My God, some comments are idiots. Only people can be repressed and envious. Mariska has left the night for charity events and work commitments. Because she has small children do not need to isolate the world. She is a human being alive, not dead. If she wins big, she has earned it. He devoted 12 years of its existence to television working 16 hours a Day it is perfectly natural to want to stay closer to their children. Getting closer does not mean giving up your social life.
Do not know any celebrity who is as generous as Mariska. While most only participates in charity events to appear and send the check at the end of the month, Mariska has the initiative to create a foundation that has helped over 20,000 people. Truly admire this woman. A genuine person, positive and generous. Ah! I forgot: she’s beautiful..

juliet on

When Mariska said she was “eventually getting a little promotion so we are bringing on a new detective”, I’m pretty sure she was referring to her character on SVU getting a promotion. Her character Olivia Benson will most likely be given a promotion within in NYPD, which means that Mariska won’t have as much screen time anymore, thus the need for a new detective. Sort of like the show did when she was pregnant with August–her character was moved to the Internet crimes department so that Mariska wouldn’t have as much screen time and would mostly be shown behind a desk (hiding her stomach). I do think Mariska is a very classy lady and don’t think she is a publicity whore, leaving her kids at home while she’s out ana about all night.

KB on

I hear ya, Mariska. I found going from 1 to 2 VERY hard, much harder than going from 0 to 1. It was a big adjustment, that I didn’t expect. I thought I knew what I was doing since I’d already raised one child for 4 years. BAH! Very tough.

RLM on

I do not understand why some people insist on seeing evil where none exists.

What is the problem of having money Mariska. She works for this;

Never saw Mariska participating in clubbing. She has a busy social life dedicated to charity. What she does very well. And she has come out at night when your kids should be sleeping (they are small)

She want to stay longer next to the children. They are small and need. It is perfectly understandable.

Frootie on

Wow, I’m not sure where the animosity comes from Barbara……Meow.

(Lookit me talk like I know the woman personally…haha!)

I DO know, however, that she is NOT a publicity whore. Me myself, I really don’t see that much of her around, and when I do, it’s usually for her charity or someone else’s. I personally think she’s and incredible actress, and I’m saddened by the fact that she is cutting her hours on LO: SVU, but I can perfectly understand why she is doing it. She has a ton of money THAT SHE WORKED FOR over the years, and she’s definitely earned it. Kudo’s for her for making time for her kids. There is NOTHING wrong with coming out and saying that raising 2 kids is harder than one, whether you have money or not. If she didn’t care, the Nannies would be raising the kids. GOOD FOR YOU MARISKA!!

catherine on

i love law&Order s.v.u. i watch it every night. i like Mariska a lot as detective Benson. she is so cool as a detective. i like stabler also. i don’t blame her at all to work less hours to stay with her two children at all. i hope that she is gonna stay to continue to play olivia benson, but if not, then i hope that they get some body to play a real good detective like Mariska did .

catherine on

i hope that she doesn’t leave s.v.u. at all. she is the best detective onthe show and so is elliot stabler. but i’m hoping that she doesn’t leasve, but when she does, i hope that they get another female detective to take her place.
good luck to mariska and her family. she deserves time with her kids and family.

Jillian on

Jennifer, your comment makes no sense. Because people like you will comment that celebs have trainers and chefs so after baby you can’t even tell they were pregnant. So your theory….not making too much sense.

Alma, it could be bc they want to be stable. Maybe they can’t find love. Or maybe have trouble getting pregnant.

I am a huge fan of hers and love reading about her and her family. She seems like an amazing mother.

Diane on


cat on

I agree with Barbara to a point. There are celebrities who seem more concerned with money and publicity than they do with their children. That is not what Mariska is all about. I believe her children and husband are the most important things in her life. SVU has made her who she is and has helped to inspire her to start the joyful heart foundation; so I don’t think she wants to turn her back on that. Besides, she may be thinking to the future. Once SVU is over, she may not get another acting job right away as so many people associate her with Olivia Benson; so she may be seeking some financial security for those years when she won’t be working – times she can spend with her children. I wish her the best.

Karen on

Why haven’t we seen pictures of her husband with Amaya? Why haven’t he commented on the new baby? Was it Mariska’s idea to adopt and she forced his hand or what? I like Mariska and ‘m very happy for her, but you do have to wonder.

If Mariska decides to leave SVU, I will no longer watch it.

Ellen on


I’ve seen photos of Mariska in August, along with Peter Amaya.E Mariska has always said that everything is decided in his family together. Even the name Amaya. And we have to take into account that Mariska, being more famous and mother, appears and speaks to Peter.

Luciana on


I think you also have to think about the fact that THIS (SVU I mean) It’s been part of her life since 1999. By the way, her wonderful foundation, was created thanks to the show. So it would be so nice of you to consider that IT IS NOT EASY to LEAVE BEHIND SOMETHING SO IMPORTANT FOR YOU. IT TOOK PLACE IN HER LIFE FOR SUCH A LONG TIME. I’m not saying she loves her job more than her children but it is something important for her!! I wish she could be Olivia Benson for a hundred years more!!. Just as she said; “I love her deeply and will miss her terribly!!!” But I’m so glad she is finally goint to have some stability in her life!

RandomTandem on


Stop being so judgmental! Mariska is a philanthropist. Most of the Galas she goes to are for a charitable cause. Furthermore, just because you hate leaving your kids doesnt mean you dont want to go out and have fun. Mommies need time away from their kids.

As far as her job, dont be a hater. Yes a lot of people have more than 2 kids and have to work 2 jobs to support them. Mariska being blessed enough to get less hours and the same amount of money has nothing to do with other mothers. If they had the opportunity, they’d do the same. Don’t be mad at Mariska because your life isnt as glam as hers.

Mariska is an awesome person. Ive met her numerous times and she is always sweet and down to earth. She deserves all of her blessings!

mary on

my husband and I are a mixed couple we have pics of my kids and grandkids with him and pics of me with his family everywhere why arent there pics of mariska s husband peter with their daughter found pics of him and their son did he really want her all pics are of mariska and her

Miss.Success85 on

Yay I’m so happy for you! OMGoodness your family is so BEAUTIFUL!

I have to admit I’m anxious to see the new cast member but so happy that you’re able to work things out to better your lifestyle and work-life-balance!

Again so happy for you! You’re my favorite TV actress-you inspire me to be a strong-independant-woman!

Thank you for being YOU Mariska Hargitay muah xoxoxoxo