Often when people find out that I'm in grad school and that I have, not one, but 3 kids, I receive wide-eyed reactions that go something like "how do you do that"? For a couple of years, I was even a single parent in grad school, and I lived to tell the tale. So, how do I do it?
Basically, the answer is, I just get up in the morning, do what needs to get done, get as much sleep as possible, and be happy. No point in bitching (too much) about it, I've made my bed, and I try to make it as comfortable as humanly possible. I've vowed to be happy no matter what life throws at me, and I'm a happy, fulfilled human being. I derive great pleasure from all aspects of my life: my kids, my husband, my work, science, and my colleagues.
My father told me once that having your first child is realizing that for the very first time you love someone else more than you love yourself. And becoming a better person as a result. I derive a great deal of comfort from the knowledge that this describes how my parents felt about me when I was born. I would take it a step further. Not only did I feel the same way when F1-1 was born, to my great surprise I love my second child just as much, and the third one too. They are all so different, with their own little quirks, likes, dislikes, moods, and personalities, and they are all so loveable, and a source of indescribable joy.
I suppose I do sacrifice a thing or two. A social life, for one. P1 and I go out to dinner once or twice a year whenever my mother-in-law is in town. And it is really hard to find time for myself, but I do have some. I exercise two evenings a week, and P1 and I spend most Friday afternoons together. He finishes early on Fridays, so we have lunch and then do something else together until it is time to pick up the kids. On the weekends we take turns sleeping, while the other gets up with the kiddos. Things aren't perfect. We should make a greater effort to do more as a family during the weekend, and we really ought to spend more time working with F1-2 on special skills such as communication, and P1 and I need to work on spending more quality time together, but all things told we're doing ok. And we're trying to do better.
There are actually also advantages to having kids. They help me out too. When I go home in the afternoon, I have no choice but to leave my work behind and relax the brain. Children demand our undivided attention. This gets a bit tricky when you have to work on the weekends doing qualifying exams, but overall it's a good thing. I derive a lot of pleasure from my children though, and it is very nice to be able to let go completely of the daily research stress, and just be a mommy.
I suspect every parent in a position similar to mine will likely tell you the same thing. You just do what needs to be done and try to make the best of it. The most important thing to me is to be happy, and I am.