VICKY Mann knows all about the back-to-work January blues.

In fact, the former reservations manager at a major cruise company felt so unhappy about going back to work after the Christmas break, that she quit her job in December 2016.

It was a huge step for the mother-of-one from Dibden, who was the family’s main breadwinner.

But since returning to work after the birth of Luca, now three, she had found it increasingly difficult to manage the demands of her job and having a small child.

“I felt I had no option but to resign,” says the 33-year-old.

“Having had a child, I needed a lot more flexibility than was available.

“My husband is a postman and I was the main earner, so it wasn’t an ideal decision, but I felt I didn’t have much choice. It would have made more sense for my husband to leave his job, but I wanted to be our son’s primary carer.

“Initially, my plan was to be a full-time parent until our son started school, but I quickly got bored being at home all the time, and wanted to use my skills. When I saw a job being advertised organising baby and children’s nearly new markets, I knew it would be ideal.”

According to new research by You Gov, Vicky wasn’t alone in dreading returning to work – they found that around a quarter of UK workers (23 per cent) feel the same.

Vicky had spent years working up to her previous position, and says there are a number of things she misses about her old job, including the salary, the responsibility and the sense that she was using her degree and her experience effectively.

“I have a real issue with the fact that so many intelligent and well-educated women feel that they have no choice but to leave their careers and work in low-paid and unskilled jobs after they have children,” she says.

“I think that companies are really missing out by not offering working mothers more flexibility.”

However, Vicky doesn’t miss the feeling she had two years ago, being back at work in January, the busiest time of year in her former industry.

“I was dreading going back to work, with a child who didn’t sleep at night, and being expected to work very long hours as well as at the weekends.

“I now run two markets for Little Pickles and it’s very flexible work. I am at the markets at the weekends, but it’s up to me what and when I do the planning and promotion, so I can do it in the evenings or when my husband is off of work, or even with my son – for instance, I can take some flyers to soft play.”

Vicky plans to embark on a new career once Luca starts school, preferably something that involves being outdoors.

In the meantime, running the markets keeps her busy enough and the money coming in is very welcome.

“We’ve adapted well to my reduced earnings,” she says.

“We’ve made cutbacks and we’d saved up a lot before, so we’re primarily living off our savings, but it’s definitely been worth it. We are all much happier. It’s really noticeable with our son. Even a few weeks after I left work, he was more settled – the chaotic lifestyle had been affecting him.

“Now I feel really excited about having a new career, whatever it is. It’s funny, because I was terrified of losing my job, but now I’m so glad that I left!”

l EMMA Batt’s former job as a dental sales rep used to take her away from home for up to five nights at a time, covering an area from Hampshire up to Bath and down to the tip of Cornwall.

The mother of one began to think about a change of career almost as soon as her daughter Matilda, now two, was born.

Emma, from Bitterne Park, had been very worried about giving birth, so while she was pregnant, she and her husband Francis took hypnobirthing classes.

They completely changed her feelings about being pregnant and giving birth and she felt that she wanted to share that experience with other mums to be.

On top of that, her daughter was exclusively breastfed and refused to take a bottle, so Emma realised it would be very difficult to go back to her old role.

“Matilda was about three months old when I started looking seriously into training and she was about five months old when I actually did it,” says the 28-year-old.

She has now been running her own business, Little Hearts Hypnobirthing, for almost a year and a half, and has no regrets about her dramatic career change.

“I don’t miss anything really,” she says.

“Maybe having adult company and talking about something other than babies. Now, even when I’m talking to other adults, it’s about babies, of course!

“It’s been a big financial change for us, because we made the decision for me to work in the evenings and at the weekends. That also tends to be when people who want hypnobirthing classes are available, as people normally do it for their first pregnancy, and are in full time work still.

“But on the other hand, we don’t have to pay nursery fees, which would be a big chunk if we were both working full time.

“And I had been dreading going back to work in my old job.”

Emma is currently pregnant, but once her children are both at school, she anticipates looking for part time work alongside her hypnobirthing business, again probably related to babies, children or pregnancy.

“This is definitely not a career path that I’d been planning before I was pregnant,” she says.

“I hadn’t even heard of hypnobirthing before and at first I thought it was hippy and weird! But now I’m very glad to be doing it.”

l LAURA Brunsdon felt that she was stuck in a rut. Having qualified as a general nurse in 2001, she had worked full-time for 18 months, before giving birth to her daughter, now 14.

She continued to work part time, and had another child, her son who is now seven.

But as her children got older, she was keen to take on more work or a different challenge, but found it hard to find something that fitted the bill in nursing, without her having to work more unsociable hours or going full-time.

Then, five years ago, she helped her husband set up his own carpet cleaning business, and began to think about self-employment for herself.

“My son started at preschool and I thought ‘what can I do at home’,” says the 38-year-old from Shirley, Southampton.

“I did a lot of research and just stumbled across life casting. I went on a course and then more courses, and it went on from there.”

Laura was keen to become self-employed so that she was in control of her working hours.

“I was so fed up. You had to book annual leave a year in advance sometimes. One year I went the whole of the six week school summer holiday without being about to get any time off, and I used to start getting worried about having to work on Christmas Day in October.

“I know a lot of nurses get burnt out, but for me, it was about being able to work flexibly.”

Laura set up her business, Laura’s Treasured Prints, doing life casts, finger print jewellery, memorial jewellery and more, three and a half years ago.

“I do miss working with people in nursing, but I have lots of human contact in what I do now,” she says.

“Life casting is so personal and it’s lovely getting such nice feedback all the time. I really like being able to offer the memorial stuff too. It’s such a nice thing to be able to offer at that time in people’s lives.

“And I love having my own business and having complete control.”

Laura says that she used to have itchy feet in January and wonder what else she could do, but now she can’t wait to get back to work after the school break.

“I’d say to anyone thinking about setting up their own business to go for it, but to have a back up plan. I stayed on the nursing bank for a long time. Being on a zero hours contract was perfect for me.

“We have had to tighten our belts but over the last year, I’ve worked on the business side more, not just the creative side, and that’s helped. I worked out what I needed to earn and have been strict with myself and learnt to value my time.”