I entered the PhD when my son was two years old. My daughter was born five days after he turned 3 and one week before I would start classes of my third semester. That semester I took extra credits (it is a different story why I had to), and the following one, I had to prepare for my qualification exams. I want to share the three things my partner and I have learned about having a family in grad school.
1. Be organized.
This one is kind of obvious. But the number of things that you have to keep in mind when kids are involved escalates fast.
2. Be kind to yourself.
You feel like a bad parent when you study and like a lousy student when you are parenting. You are neither. One does not cancel the other. You have to remind yourself that you are learning two big things so you will make mistakes.
3. Be flexible.
Might sound I'm contradicting myself with point one. But both feed each other. I'll give you a toy example. You plan to study for your exam that is in one week. But that day your family obligations need you more than you expected. No problem, the exam is in a week, you can postpone one day with no vast implications. If you are flexible, this won't stress you out, and you'll be more rested and calm to study when you can.
These are my three lessons from being very lucky to have a family with me during grad school. I had difficult times, and it hasn't been easy, but I don't think it is easy for anyone. Mostly I'm grateful that when I have a terrible week in the program, I have a reliable support system that has carried me all this way.
Thank you to Pedro for these great tips! You can find Pedro on Twitter at @pebroo