Pamela Anderson tells PEOPLE her sons thought she only rescued animals when they were little

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The world may have known Pamela Anderson as the quintessential Baywatch babe, but her children had no idea that their mom was the Pamela Anderson until much later.

The 48-year-old’s sons, Brandon, 19, and Dylan, 17, with her ex-husband Tommy Lee, were unaware of their mother’s fame growing up.

Despite visiting their mom on the set of Baywatch “all the time,” the actress tells PEOPLE they “didn’t get it cause they were so young.”

“They haven’t seen how hard I’ve worked,” she says. “I built my whole life around them — like their soccer games were in my contracts.”

Pamela Anderson Sons Baywatch

Barry King/Filmmagic

It wasn’t until Anderson’s sons attended surf camp that they learned more about their mom.

After their first day at camp, “They came up to me and they said, ‘Mom, are you Pamela Anderson?’ And I said ‘Yeah.’ ”

“They were like, ‘What is that?’ And ,’Why are people saying these things? Are you Pamela Anderson for real? Like, what is going on?’ ”

Anderson’s reply? “Well, yeah.”

Pamela Anderson Sons Baywatch

Everett Collection

When her boys were young, the actress and animal activist admits career day was interesting.

“They would say my dad’s a rockstar and my mommy rescues animals,” Anderson recalls. “That’s all they knew.”

These days the mom of two is as busy as ever with her new book, Raw, which features photos and excerpts from her journals.

“I have always thought it’d be fun to kind of put out this coffee table book, kind of our behind the scenes of just me being silly in hotel rooms,” she says. “[It’s] a decade of fun and craziness.”

Pamela Anderson Sons Baywatch

BenBella Books, Inc.

For more on Pamela Anderson and her kids, pick up a copy of the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

— Alexandra Hurtado and Liz McNeil