Penélope Cruz and husband Javier Bardem, who star together in the new thriller Everybody Knows, are parents to daughter Luna, 5, and son Leo, 8 this month

Penélope Cruz is calling out the unrealistic expectations society places on women, with or without children.

The actress, who stars alongside husband Javier Bardem in the psychological thriller Everybody Knows, out next month, opens up in Marie Claire‘s February cover story about the high standards women are held to, whether they are mothers or not.

“There are so many taboos related to women,” says Cruz, 44, who’s mom to daughter Luna, 5, and son Leo, 8 this month. “You realize when you go through the whole process [of becoming a parent] that society tricks women a lot — and men too.”

“This image society gives you — that you have to be a super-woman, that you need to be out of hospital in 24 hours, wearing high heels. No, you already are a superwoman!” she remarks. “We’re all superwomen — those of us who have children and those of us who don’t.”

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Credit: Nico Bustos
Penélope Cruz
| Credit: Nico Bustos
Penélope Cruz
| Credit: Nico Bustos

For Cruz, having kids wasn’t something she wanted to rush, but she now has “the life that I always wanted since I was a little girl” despite it being a “very different life” in general.

“When I was 4 or 5, I was already performing, and the characters in my games were always mothers,” she tells Marie Claire. “I really wanted to be a mother, for as long as I can remember.”

“But I did it when I felt the time was right — the right time, the right person,” adds the Vicky Cristina Barcelona actress, who wed fellow Oscar winner Bardem in 2010.

Penélope Cruz
| Credit: Nico Bustos

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Although she generally doesn’t “speak about the children in interviews,” Cruz says motherhood is “the thing that has made me happiest” even though “there are a lot of things that have surprised me about it.”

For example, “It’s like a revolution inside you — a very animal-like one,” she explains. “The whole world looks different. You’ll never think of yourself first again, and I think that’s a very good thing. It happens in a second.”

To that end, she only tries to work on one movie a year and doesn’t work weekends, preferring to schedule film shoots over the summer.

Penélope Cruz
| Credit: Nico Bustos
Penélope Cruz covers Marie Claire‘s February issue
| Credit: Nico Bustos

Cruz tells Marie Claire that the longest she has ever been away from her kids was four days, and that even that length of time only occurred twice — something she insists she’s “not saying” to “claim I’m making some great sacrifice — not at all. My family is my priority.”

As someone also in the entertainment industry, Bardem, 49, struggles with the same hurdles in balancing a career and family. But the couple make it work.

“The truth is, his experience of all this is very similar to mine,” says Cruz. “We like the family to be together.”

Everybody Knows hits U.S. theaters on Feb. 8.