parent opinion

This mum refused to return her shopping trolley. It started a heated debate.

When you become a parent there are a number of day-to-day tasks that suddenly become a lot more tricky.

Filling up your car with petrol becomes a complicated maths equation. Going to the bathroom is an Olympic sport. And something as simple as returning a shopping trolley is fraught with complications.

If you've ever found yourself at the shopping centre with a screaming child only to be faced with the moral dilemma of 'should I or shouldn't I' return my trolley — don't worry, you're not the only one.

One mum has taken to TikTok to boldly share her stance in declaring that she simply will not be returning her shopping trolley and has no qualms in letting her thoughts be known.

Psychologist and Dr Leslie Dobson has built a following on TikTok by sharing her advice on parenting and child safety. Obviously with any parenting advice shared online it is all subjective and available for you to ignore if it doesn't align with your values.

However, a recent video from Dr Dobson has elicited a rather robust debate in the comments section with plenty of people keen to share their two cents on best trolley practices.

@drlesliedobson #groceryshopping #shoppingcart #traderjoes #protectourchildren #protectourkids #educational #groceries #singlemom #drleslie ♬ original sound - Dr. Leslie

With over 10.7 million views it's clear the Dr Dobson views have hit a major talking point worth discussing.

"I'm not returning my shopping cart," she says in the video. "You can judge me all you want. I'm not getting my groceries into my car, my children into the car and then leaving them in the car to go return the cart. So if you're going to give me a dirty look — f**k off."


She certainly has a strong view point on the subject matter and for that reason there were plenty of people who sounded off in the comments disagreeing with her firm sentiments.

"I always parked next to the cart return or as close to it as possible and it was never an issue, you’re just being lazy," wrote one mum.

"how do you get the cart? Either the kids walk with you to the cart, or you leave them in the car. It’s the same thing in reverse," said Valerie.

"Wow I raised three and managed to put cart way every time. Decades. Brought them with me to put cart away teaching them responsibility. Carried them to car," wrote April.

It's clear there were more commenters that did not believe that Dr Dobson's approach was the appropriate way to behave when it comes to returning shopping trolleys when you have children.

"I want women to feel empowered to trust their intuition if they feel unsafe, and ignore judgment," Dr Dobson responded on many of the naysayers comments. "Risk isn’t worth it and our lives are precious. I have seen lives destroyed."

On the other side of the coin there were a few people who spoke up in support of her opinions on whether or not to return the shopping trolley.

"Even by myself, walking way down away from my car to the cart corral is dangerous these days. I wouldn’t dare if my children with still little either. I’m with you on this," one person wrote.

"I do NOT leave my kids in the cart while I load groceries. They go in the car first and the doors get locked. I try to park next to a cart return, but if not, I ask the closest person to take it," another said.


As a parent to a young child I can safely say that I have grappled with what to do on multiple occasions. Every time I go to the grocery store I often try to find a park nearest to the trolley bays in order to preempt making things easier when unloading the groceries. But for anyone who has tried to find a park at a busy shopping centre this can often be a lot easier said than done.

Other times I have placed my child in her car seat first, unloaded the groceries, made sure she is safe and happy before locking the car and sprinting the trolley back to the bay. If you've seen me running like a madwoman doing this — no you didn't.

So yes, my thoughts are always as best as you can do the polite thing and return the trolley. But there are caveats to this because parenthood is not perfect and some days you're just going to be in the thick of it and making a judgement call on the safety of your child should always trump being polite.

When I was postpartum with an extremely reflux-y baby driving to the grocery store was an excursion that filled me with deep anxiety. I was constantly worried about when she might projectile vomit and this happened more than once while in her car seat. Sometimes returning a trolley to they bay was just not going to happen when my sole focus was placed on her safety and monitoring her well-being. For parents of reflux babies you'll know what I'm talking about when I say this can rear its head without a moment's notice.

So yes, there were probably a couple of times where I just shifted the trolley in to a safe space rather than taking it all the way back to the bay. But it was a decision I made for the safety of my child and I feel empowered by that.


Outside of making your best judgement when we look at the law it is a criminal offence in most states and territories to leave your child unattended in the car. In fact, in same states and territories doing so can lead to costly fines and jail time.

Obviously there is scope for various situations but when you think about accidentally locking keys in your car, hand brakes coming dislodged or a crash you open yourself up to a number of different variables.

Many people have commented on the original TikTok suggesting to leave the children or children in the trolley while you unload the groceries however this can also lead to safety concerns like the trolley rolling or potentially being hit by another vehicle.

As my daughter has gotten older and has grown out of reflux I am less focused on this but my point is about giving parents grace. You never know what kind of day they're having and what trenches they're in at that moment. I do not try to make a habit of not returning my shopping trolley and always try to do so when it is safe.

But on the odd occasion a parent can't return a trolley and you've got a spare moment, return it for them and pay it forward.

Do you return your shopping trolley as a parent? Tell us in the comments section below.

Feature Image: Canva, TikTok/@drlesliedobson

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