He began flexing his work schedule so he could take daughter Isabelle, 13, to her dance lessons and son Reese, 10, to sports practices. He now cooks dinner and stays up late doing laundry.
"I'm 100 percent stressed. But I feel like I have a relationship with my children now. I know them," he said. "Before, I thought I did, but I was fooling myself."
In dual-income families - about 60 percent of all two-parent households with children younger than 18 - mothers' and fathers' roles are slowly "converging," the Pew Research report found. Although fathers still spend more time at work and mothers spend more time juggling work and home chores - handling not only twice the child care, but twice the housework - their total workloads are fairly similar: 54 hours a week for fathers to 53 hours for mothers.
Meghan Roberts, assistant city attorney for Alexandria, Va., said she is concerned about her husband, Greg, who works as an accountant by day and bartender by night.
"He is always stressed out. I know he worries that he doesn't spend enough time with our daughter," 18-month-old Eloise. "But between my student loans and the cost of child care, right now that's the only thing that makes sense."
Although the overwhelming majority of fathers say working full time is best, nearly half also said that if they could swing it financially, they'd rather stay home with the kids than work, the Pew Research report said. An equal number of mothers have long answered the question the same way.
"That, to me, is shocking," Parker said. "We don't have trend data on that because no one's ever asked dads the question before."
Chris Thomas, 46, a "work-at-home" father in Alexandria, completely understands the feeling. It's the life he's chosen.
By 3:30 Monday afternoon, Thomas had already been awake for 12 hours. He'd worked for two hours as a personal trainer at the gym, then come home to start his "real" job making breakfast; packing lunches; driving his wife, a teacher, to work and his oldest son, Isaiah, to school; home-schooling his middle son, Jeremiah, in sign language; loading the dishwasher; soothing upsets; brushing tiny teeth; shopping for groceries; and changing the diapers of his youngest son, Elijah.
"I'm so tired. Everything is just so scheduled," said Thomas, who goes back to work as a trainer in the evening when his wife, Kerby, returns from school. They rarely see each other except in the late evening.
Kerby, 29, stayed home for two years when Isaiah was born but was consumed with guilt that she wasn't contributing financially as the debt started to pile up. She loved her work, as did Thomas, yet the two didn't want to put their children in child care (and with three boys, couldn't afford it anyway). That's when Thomas, with his flexible schedule, suggested that he take over the job.
Each has struggled to find an identity in what Thomas calls "uncharted territory." The two went through a rocky separation a few months ago before getting back together and working to redefine their roles.
"I was feeling like the mother usually does - unappreciated," said Thomas, who started a nonprofit group, Daddy and Little Me, to try to help other dads navigate this new role. "And every time I joked about being Mr. Mom, she'd take offense and say, 'You are not their mother. I am.' "
By 4:50 p.m., Thomas had dumped the Eddie Bauer diaper bag and worked with Isaiah on his homework. He'd calmed an overly tired Jeremiah, rocking him on his lap. Before heading out to the gym to train clients, he busily folded clothes as Kerby kept an eye on the three boys playing out on the balcony.
"My view is, we both wanted these children, so the job shouldn't fall on just the mom," Kerby said. "A lot of people think raising children is just the mom's job. Chris and I don't feel that way. Chris has the blessing to see, in a way that many men don't, that being a full-time parent is a very, very tough job."