Kelly Ripa Shares the Best and Worst Part of Being an Empty Nester (Exclusive)

Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, recently dropped off their youngest child at college.

Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos' home is a little quieter these days. The two are officially empty nesters after their youngest son, Joaquin, 18, headed off to college. 

The Live With Kelly and Ryan co-host opened up on Tuesday's show about the "brutally painful" experience of dropping off Joaquin at the University of Michigan, but as she told ET's Rachel Smith on Wednesday, there are some perks to having launched her kids as well. 

"I will say the best part is there's no laundry in our house," joked the mom of three, who also shares 24-year-old son Michael and 20-year-old daughter Lola with Consuelos. "There's no dishes. There's like, nothing! Nothing! There's nothing." 

With less chores around the house, Ripa has more time to herself -- or to reflect on the decades she spent raising her kids. 

"The worst part is... people would say to us, 'Oh, don't blink because they grow up before you know it, and they'll be out of the house.' And when you're in it, you're so tired, you're so like, bone-tired in your bones that you can't believe that's true," she described. "But we did. We blinked, unfortunately, and now they are grown adults."

"So, I think that's really the worst part is that we didn't slow down in real time to appreciate that aspect of them when they were small, because we were so busy protecting them and making sure they were turning into good people and getting things done on time," she continued. 

But as Ripa's co-host, Ryan Seacrest, noted, that aspect of mothering just comes naturally to her. 

"She can't exist without doing that, so she has Andy [Cohen] and Anderson [Cooper's] babies, so she can continue to be that mom," he said. 

"So, now we have our grandbabies, as we like to call them," Ripa agreed, assuring Seacrest that she and Consuelos definitely don't have "baby fever." "He can't believe I haven't brought a puppy into our lives." 

Between pals like Seacrest, Cohen and Cooper and the new season of Live With Kelly and Ryan -- which was the No. 1 talk show in syndication last season -- Ripa has plenty to keep her busy. 

"We've been here for 34 seasons," Ripa raved of Live. "We look pretty good, I have to say." 

"I could do 30 more, what do you say?" Seacrest added. 

The co-hosts are kicking off premiere week by highlighting the resiliency of New York. 

"You know, there's just been so much uncertainty and our great city was the epicenter of the pandemic," Ripa explained. "And there were so many people that sort of counted New York out, and we were here in the studio saying, 'New York does and is going to do what it always does, which is continue on. We carry on, pick ourselves up, and we carry on.' ... The show must go on, and so has our show, and so has all of the shows in New York." 

Seacrest said his favorite part of NYC has been joining Live with Ripa, but he's also celebrating a special milestone at another show, American Idol. The reality competition series is approaching its 20th anniversary next year. 

"I would tell him not to highlight his hair," Seacrest joked of the advice he'd offer himself 20 years ago. "I would tell him not to wear a see-through sheer shirt on primetime TV. I would tell him to stand further back from the camera, because up close is not so great. I would tell him to look natural. I would tell him not to be so cheesy." 

"I would have a long, long chat with him over a long, long lunch and a glass of rose," he added.