Would you explain for me why we have the phrase " how fragile it is that with a blink of eye of a broken toilet..." in the sentence below and the meaning of it. Thanks in advance.

“Then I had Sasha and we lost our babysitter, which was probably the worst time of my motherhood. I was so devastated because that balance, that work-family balance is so fragile, and you realize how fragile it is that with a blink of an eye of a broken toilet, a sick child, a sick parent, that that balance is thrown off.


...you realize how fragile it is that with a blink of an eye of a broken toilet, a sick child, a sick parent, that that balance is thrown off.

'a blink of an eye' free dictionary

blink of an eye - a very short time

In this excerpt 'a blink of an eye' means a very short time. The narrator has realize[d] how fragile the work-family balance is, because she has a 'broken toiliet, a sick child, [and] a sick parent'. These are all events that happened quickly (emphasised by the way they are rattled off, alongside commas from a textual point of view) and the fact of course that we have the use of the phrase 'blink of an eye' which is forming part of the description.

I think the phrase is a particularly good choice here as the metaphor works very well, you can imagine her blinking her eyes around her as all of these random events take place, breaking her fragile 'work-life balance'.

How fragile, simply means it is not very strong, in this case her 'work-family balance' can be toppled very easily by these random events.


She is bemoaning the fact that in an instant a series of otherwise perhaps routine matters to handle instead become overwhelming. With the babysitter there to help, things were balanced; without the babysitter, life's demands became too much to cope with (especially with respect to keeping on working).


The sentence is a bit confusing. "With a blink of an eye" is an idiom which, in the above context, means a seemingly minor event. Following that idiom is a list of examples -- broken toilet, sick child, sick parent.

It's saying that any one of those "blink of an eye" events can "throw out of balance" whatever it was that was just being discussed.

"Throw out of balance" is another idiom meaning to disrupt or make unstable. In this case the First Lady is describing how trying to be a two-working-parent family requires "work/life balance", and relatively minor events can make it difficult for the parents to simultaneously fulfill both work and family obligations.

  • No, that is not right. Per Oxford Dictionaries Online, "in the wink of an eye" means super-quickly. – tchrist Jul 31 '16 at 2:50
  • @tchrist - But she said "blink", not "wink". – Hot Licks Jul 31 '16 at 2:52
  • Trust me, it does not matter that she's using the re-tread. It means the same thing. – tchrist Jul 31 '16 at 2:52
  • @tchrist - You know, sometimes Oxford doesn't get US meanings correctly. In this case "blink of an eye" means a seemingly trivial occurrence. – Hot Licks Jul 31 '16 at 2:55
  • Prove it: I don't believe you. – tchrist Jul 31 '16 at 2:56

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