Just saw this thread and thought I'd rejoin the ranks a bit.
I'm a full-time nursing student in a ridiculously crazy accelerated BSN program that is trying to kill even those students who don't have kids.
We live on student loans (and a line of credit for students in professional fields). I am acquiring debt at an astonishing rate, but I don't care because the end is in sight and I know that my current skills at being cheap will pay off as we continue to live on our current budget and I use the excess to pay off loans. I also have daycare subsidy and we qualify for various programs for low income families. I qualify for bursaries and grants. I apply for everything possible and have no shame about laying out my entire sordid story in hopes of an extra $500 scholarship.
My kiddos have learned that Mommy is just really busy. A few months ago, I had to just put school on hold emotionally, and tend to them, even though I couldn't really afford to, they needed it more. I'm trying to avoid to getting to that point again.
We make plans for what we'll do, and look forward to that. When Mommy has a break between terms (my program is 23 months straight, but with a few weeks between terms usually), we go on weekend trips and value the time together. I've promised them a trip to Disneyland when we're ALL done with this because it's been a family affair. And we WILL go, even if it's the last thing I put on that line of credit.
I try really hard to make the time between daycare pick-up and bedtime just about them. I don't look at my homework, I don't do housework, I just do their homework and we eat dinner and we go outside and play, and I take them to their extra-curricular activities, etc. They know that I expect them to stay in bed at night because THAT'S my homework time, though.
If I'm home during a day that I have a weird class schedule, I sometimes pick up one child from daycare or school (I have 3 kids) and we do a special lunch, just the two of us. It makes the busy weeks more bearable.
My budgeting skills probably aren't useful to you, as I'm in Canada and the prices are greatly different (for example, my rent is $1295, and daycare, if it wasn't subsidized, would be $1925/month), but you learn where you CAN afford to cut corners (eat out less?) and where you can't (for me, I've got full cable, DVR and internet because hello, I need that for ME.)
I also really think long-term. I try not to worry about the debt I'm accumulating RIGHT NOW because I KNOW that when I graduate, I will be able to live on 1/2 of my salary and put the other 1/2 towards debt.
Put forth your goal, put a date to it, plan a reward and get working towards it. That date is gonna come if you're ready or not so you might as well get ready for it.