Every parent will agree that staying home with a child is back-breaking (and often mind-numbing) labor. Many new fathers will concede that it is much easier to go to work than to stay at home with several children. However, the greatest imbalance in efforts and contributions to a marriage can manifest once all the children are of school age. The house is now empty from 8am-3pm. The wife has 7 hours to herself, while the kids are at school, and the husband is at work. After a few years of hard work at home, many wives may feel entitled to "kick back." The good husband however, has worked those same years, has done his 50/50 of the housework, and is still working to support the family once the kids are in school. He is rarely afforded the same option to scale back his daytime efforts.
What motivation does the modern wife have to return to work? Very little. For several years now, the man's salary has been enough to live on. (Otherwise, she would have been working) Unless tight finances (and living on borrowed tme) dictate that she must return to work, the husband really has little say in this matter. The wife can hide behind many different excuses in order not to work, despite having little to do from 7am-3pm:
"I'm busy with the housework"
It is easy to exaggerate the labors of daily housework. Yet, how long does it take to throw clothes into the wash, and remove them later? Vacuuming can be done in 1 hour a week. Grocery is another hour per week. A decent meal can be prepared in under an hour. Does all this add up to 7 hours a day? Note: This lie is not as persuasive as it may have been in the past, b/c in an age of later marriage, many men are already experienced in cooking & cleaning, and know what kind of effort it entails. (Note that not every stay-at-home-wife even does all these things.) Perhaps a man needed a stay-at-home wife when it took hours to do the laundry along the riverside, hours to churn butter, hours to till the land, etc. I believe the concept of a non-working stay at home wife is a vestige of simpler days. The simple fact is, a man no longer needs this. (or the liability it entails upon divorce)
"I can't find a job"
She has been out of work too long, and therefore is unable to find a job. This may be true, but many men do not consider this risk when they agree to support her while she "temporarily' stops working. (Hopefully, now they will, and can make a more informed decision) Also, many wives may use this as a scapegoat to conveniently not even bother looking for any job. (Below, I describe how this can even be used against the husband in the event of divorce)
"It doesn't pay for me to work"
In the shortrun, the expenses of work (gas, lunch, clothes) may not make it worthwhile for her to go back to work. This may be true, but does this justify her playing tennis, while the husband toils away? Many couples may be too shortsighted on this matter. Initially, the cost/benefit numbers may not be ideal, but her returning to work will improve her job skills and network of contacts. (More so than strolling through the local mall every afternoon) Over time, as her career gets back on track, and she becomes qualified for better jobs, her salary should also improve.
It should be duly noted that some working wives view their salary as "personal spending money", and still expect the man to pay all or most of the bills. (What's mine is mine, and what's yours is ours.) Are all women like this? No. Could this be your future wife? Possibly.