This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

I remember when I had our first son… in 2006.   Such an adorable sweet (tiny) baby boy.   I was over the moon excited.  As he grew and our family grew, it would become harder and harder to get out.  It was when I stopped putting my cart back.

why I stopped putting away the grocery cart
With only one child, I could easily run to the store, grab what I needed, unpack it all into the trunk, run the cart back to the store (with him still in it) and then I would carry him back to the car.

Six years later…  I had a four year old, a two year old, an infant and a baby on the way.   One day, in the dead of winter, I was out grocery shopping.   I had over 20 bags (yes, really) after I checked out, not to mention the boxes of diapers, gallons of  milk and other un-bagged items.

I knew that I had two options:
1- Unload the groceries with kids still standing beside me (two in the cart) while I unloaded the groceries.  This wasn’t going to work because it was so cold and they were so young and didn’t need to be out in the cold like that.

2- Put the kids into the car, unload the groceries, lock the doors and run the cart back to the store.

I had always opted for #2, because I had been in the shoes of the driver who  pulls into the space only to find a cart there.   I think “Oh man… are you kidding me?  Just walk it back into the store.  Why would you leave it here and block the spot?”  

So, like always, on that trip I opted for #2.  When I got home and I was telling my parents about how exhausting it is to shop with three kids, while being pregnant.  I was telling them about my cart dilemma when my dad told me something that I won’t forget:

“Be careful.  You are a target.  You are 4’11, petite, shopping alone with young kids.  You are distracted while you are out with all of them.   The next time that you are in that situation, leave your cart where you are and get into the car.   Don’t ever leave those kids in the car to run the cart to the store or to the cart corral in the parking lot.  Either park beside one next time, ask someone to walk it in for you if they are walking in already, or just leave it there.”

That’s when it dawned on me.   How many times had I put our kids into a dangerous situation?  Stories like this or this.  Buckled up in a car while I was 15 feet away, putting the cart back?   It doesn’t take long to grab a child, especially from the door that I can’t see on the other side of the van.   It doesn’t take long to follow me out to the car, pinpoint how they will do it and take one of my children.

So…  A few years ago, I changed my routine:

1- Park right beside a cart corral.

2- If someone is passing me, walking into the store, I will ask them to please return the cart to the store for me (I have never had someone not understand).

3- Worst case scenario, is that I become one of the THOSE people – the ones leaving their cart on the median or the sidewalk (I never park in the middle of the parking lot because I do want to be able to put it away)

That time has now passed… now, our kids are old enough to help me unload, so it is no longer an issue.  We all walk the cart back together (and pick up a few stranded carts along the way).  We help the other moms that have babies & aren’t wanting to leave their car.   These little pay it forward moments are ones that are important… we help each other.

We all have ‘moments’ in our lives where we have to do things to get through those phases, those chapters of life.  Do what is safe and right for your family…. even if it bothers the rest of the world for a few years.  Moral of the story: never judge a book by its cover. ♥


Other posts that you might like:

why I still carry my kids

let them get dirty

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

You May Also Like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I think most people understand things like this. Several years ago, I hurt my back in a car accident. I looked fine, but I was in so much pain even when I was walking. At that point, I left my cart wherever I could. I normally don’t do that though and it at least helped me understand that we don’t know people’s situation and not to judge. I’ve also been in a similar situation with kids. Now, whenever I can I help other people who seem to have a lot going on with kids or whatever and I offer to take their carts in as I walk into the store.

  2. Hi Becky, great post! Our grocery store has parking spots for those with young children right up front. I used to use them but came up with the same dilemma you have. I didn’t really worry too much about someone trying to steal my baby out of the car because I would lock the doors and take my purse with me with him inside the car. What I did worry about was some busy body filming me leaving my child alone for 15 seconds and not letting me leave while they continued to film. I too park next to the cart return. My son is two now and likes to “biff and bash” (Thomas the Train reference) the other carts that are in the return so it works out. It is nice to be able to unload my groceries, throw my purse in the side of the car next to the return, crash the carts, then put him in and be on our way.

  3. I’ve done this so so many times… I know I always park near one and so lock the door, thinking if I can see him he’ll be fine. Such a great reminder. Thanks Becky!
    PS. 4’11” 🙂 <3

  4. Thank you for calling this type of scenario to my attention. To be honest, I always put my cart back too and never really worried about whether or not someone else didn’t do the “polite” thing. Now, I am going to pay more attention and offer to help when I see a parent with more than one child that would otherwise have to make a decision that might put their children in danger. We should always treat others like family. After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

  5. I always return the cart. Lock the doors and turn the alarm on. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to stop in the middle of the parking lot and move a cart as the only parking spot left was the one with a cart in it.

  6. I have a 2 year old that weighs 35 lbs and is over half my height. With all the scares these days about leaving children in cars, even for a second, I leave my cart where it is, or I park next to the card dispenser thingy. At the gas station I park in a pump where I can see the car from where the window the pay is. Carrying her back to the car is so painful, and I don’t want to risk her being taken.

  7. I have always thought that stores should have spots next to the cart coral reserved just for people w/ children. I purposely park there/walk further so I can park near them …for the exact reason you talk about here. It is nice some stores have spots for pregnant women…but, I would LOVE it if they put some spots for people w/ kids right next to the cart return.

  8. Right after the birth of my middle child someone tried to abduct me in a parking lot while I was alone. I now prefer to have my husband or someone else with me when I’m shopping with kids in tow. It’s so hard to have your head on a swivel while trying to steer three kids . I wouldn’t blame you if you parked the cart right in the middle of the road. Be safe. XOXO

  9. You could also ask to be helped out too. The staff at the store are usually willing and able to help get your bags to the car if you are loaded down. Then they take the cart back and you are set and the other people in the lot don’t have to go around your cart…. win/win!

  10. I love shopping at our local very small store when I was pregnant and baby was in a car seat, because although they don’t have outside cart returns, when I needed it they send someone out with you, who would load up my car and return the cart as I loaded up my baby. Saved my life during the winter months!

  11. I’m relieved to see the tips you shared about never to let you children play with shopping carts. I witnessed a minor incident not too long ago when my neighbor’s kid was playing a shopping cart. Since then, my wife and I make sure our kids stay safe and I advise you to keep a close eye on your kids too while you’re shopping.