Surviving Years of Diapers And Playdates, Greta Finally Embraces Her Dream Job
It's never too late to transform your career. Here is one woman's journey from a stay-at-home mom to a veterinarian.
Who says you can’t change careers midlife – even as a stay-at-home mom? My friend, Greta Krafsur lived the dream of raising her kids first and landing her dream job second.
Krafsur, who studied textiles in graduate school with the goal of developing battery separator fabrics for military communications satellites, is now a veterinary researcher.
The seeds were sown early: growing up on a ranch in South Dakota, Greta was close to animals, and had always wanted to work with them.
“My goal was to go to veterinary school,” she says.
But life happened. She met a wonderful guy, married him, and soon she was the mother of three busy little boys, the last two arriving as twins.
“Once the twins arrived, it was obvious that there was no way that I could go to school full-time and be a mother to three sons that were 18 months and under,” she says.
She loved her family dearly, but she also couldn’t shake the strong desire to go to veterinary school someday.
So she and her husband made a pact: if she stayed at home and raised her sons, they would move near a veterinary school of her choice.
When the boys were old enough, she would finally go to vet school. In the meantime, she stuck to a life of diapers and playdates. “I was afraid my mind was going to turn to cerebral residue, really,” she recalls.
Then, in January of 2001, that “ridiculous” movie (her words) Snow Dogs came out, based on the book Winterdance by Gary Paulsen.
“I took my boys to see it, and that just grabbed me. The next thing you know, I bought Winterdance, and after that I was reading every book I possibly could about dogsledding, about mushing.”
Greta was captivated by the dogsledding world, and she landed in Alaska at the 2005 Iditarod dogsled race as a volunteer.
Once again, the animals revived her old dream of going to vet school.
She began taking biology classes on the side to prepare herself, and in 2008, she applied for veterinary school at Colorado State University. A few months later, she heard from them. “I remember grabbing the postman and shouting, ‘I got in!’ And he was like, ‘What?’”
The first big challenge soon presented itself – tuition and fees for the vet school. Depending on what year of study you’re in, it can range as high as $26,451 per year – and that’s just for in-state students. Luckily, Greta had some savings, so she was able to pay the fees, and her husband helped her with the rest.
While at school, she also worked a series of jobs, including doing autopsies on sea mammals in Alaska and on deer in Colorado.
It was not easy by any measure, juggling school, jobs, and breakfasts. Her family threw in their full support to help make Greta’s dream a reality. “You have to miss a lot of things – like your oldest son is getting an award and you can’t be there. That’s heartbreaking.”
Greta persisted, and in 2013, she graduated from vet school. Her earlier work doing autopsies had sparked a new interest: she wanted to be a veterinary pathologist and focus on research.
In order to do that, she had to go back to vet school again – this time, to complete a three-year residency, where she would undertake advanced training and new responsibilities, like teaching new students and working in the veterinary teaching hospital as an anatomic pathology resident.
Greta will be facing a board examination soon to complete the final chapter of her schooling. She’s excited about fulfilling a dream she’s held close to her heart since childhood.