While Elsa Pataky and her husband Chris Hemsworth often appear to have a fairytale life, the 44-year-old tells Australia’s Body & Soul it’s anything but.

“It’s funny that people think of us as a perfect couple,” she says of her decade-long relationship with the 37-year-old Australian actor. “No way. It’s been ups and downs, and we still keep working at the relationship. I think a relationship is constant work. It’s not easy.”

Pregnancy and motherhood caused her to fine-tune their relationship: “I had to slow down during my pregnancies and I couldn’t exercise as hard as I wanted. I remember feeling a bit lost when I had India. I thought my life was going to be the same when I had kids and I would keep working. But I couldn’t.”

She says it was hard to step back: “Chris would come home and say, ‘How was your day?’ And I didn’t feel proud to say: I’m just a mum.’ But you should. Because it’s the hardest but greatest job in the world.”

But she admits that she and Hemsworth’s bond, over fitness and the outdoors, has helped them keep their romance alive, and parent their three kids in harmony.

“Chris and I love to do sports, eat healthy and move our bodies,” she says. “We’ve got the kids into surfing. Any hobbies to get them outside, and not on social media and computers. My daughter has been horse riding with me since she was two-and-a-half.”

Now, she’s happy she’s prioritized her family. “I really liked being with the kids,” she says. “I wanted to take them to school and pick them up every day. I just love that moment. I didn’t grow up with my parents around and I missed that so much, so I wanted to give that to my kids.”