Empty nest is such a negative term, but my experience of this stage of my life is much more complex. I am in a new stage of life that I call being a post-launch parent. Each parent’s experience of this stage could be different, which is why we need a more neutral term.
So don’t ask me about the empty nest, but I am happy to tell you what it is like for me to be a post-launch parent. Each time after they leave I feel depressed and miss them terribly, but after that acute good-bye phase, I kinda like it. I can focus on my partner and my work (not at the same time); I’m excited to see my kids grow and learn and have new experiences; I sleep better—no more waking up in the middle of the night to check if they are home (yes, I realize they could be out all night on the other side of the country, but that doesn’t keep me awake at night). My life as a post-launch parent is full of work, love, volunteer commitments, friends, family, an activity I generously call jogging, cooking, reading, and lots of time planning the next time I will see/talk to/send a care package to my kids.