What causes individuals to produce quantitatively different phenotypes? While substantial research has focused on the allelic changes that affect phenotype, we know less about how the expression of these alleles accompanies variable phenotypes. Here, we investigate the transcriptional basis of variation in parental provisioning using two species of burying beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis and Nicrophorus vespilloides. Specifically, we used RNA-seq to compare the transcriptomes of parents that provided high amounts of provisioning behavior versus low amounts in males and females of each species. We found that there were no overarching transcriptional patterns that distinguish high from low caring parents, and no informative transcripts that displayed particularly large expression differences in females or males. However, we did find more subtle gene expression changes between high and low provisioning parents that are consistent across sexes as well as between the two species. Furthermore, we show that transcripts previously implicated in transitioning into parental care in N. vespilloides had high variance in the levels of transcription and were unusually likely to display differential expression between high and low provisioning parents. Thus, quantitative behavioral variation appears to reflect many transcriptional differences of small effect. We show that nuanced regulation of the same gene products that are required for the transition of one behavioral state to another are also those influencing variation within a behavioral state.