Almost exactly one year ago, I was yelled at in front of my kids by a stranger in a pickup truck.

It changed how I see myself and how I see other moms.

The morning started like any unseasonably cool, rainy, Wednesday morning. The baby was squawking in her crib and the big kids had just turned on cartoons downstairs.

I rolled out of bed, got the baby, poured cereal in bowls, and yelled at my kids to stop yelling at each other. Awesome.

Even though it was still drizzling out, we all needed some fresh air. I drove the minivan to our favorite walking trail on the outskirts of town. The parking lot was unsurprisingly deserted since it was raining and just barely morning.

Dressed in their colorful raincoats and rain boots, the kids piled out of the car. Holding hands, we stopped at the road separating the parking lot from the trail to let a white pickup truck drive past.

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Instead of driving along, the truck rolled to a stop in the middle of the quiet road, and the driver’s side window slid down. The driver was an older gentleman, with a large mustache.

My brain started screaming at me. Who stops in the middle of a deserted road? Was I about to become the subject of a hero-mom podcast? Or, way worse, a TRUE CRIME podcast?

“Hey!” the gentleman barked out the window to us. I nervously looked up at him, ready to run if necessary.

“You’re a great mom!!!” he yelled.

Even with a million guesses, I never would have guessed he was going to yell that.

I was so stunned, I just gave a weak smile and jerkily waved with the hand that was still holding on to my preschooler.

The gentleman waved to the baby in the stroller, said, “Great day for a walk!” and drove away.

And that was it. It probably lasted for less than 30 seconds.

Yet, I thought about that experience for the rest of the day. Someone thinks I’m a great mom. Then I kept thinking about it for the rest of the week.

And here we are, a whole year later, and I still cling to that tiny bit of validation from a stranger.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but being a mom is a pretty thankless job. Not a whole lot of spontaneous cheerleading happens while we slog through the mundane.

It is unlikely you will open the alumni magazine from your alma mater and see yourself on the Notable Achievements page for, “Excellence in maintaining potty training with a toddler while on vacation.”

An extended family member will never stop you at a family reunion and say, “Hey, I’ve heard so much about your recent success at not losing your temper with your kids. We’re all really proud of your growth as a mom!”

Not going to happen.

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The thing I realized from being yelled at by that stranger was that I really do need a little reassurance every now and then. And if I need it, so must every other mom in my life, even the ones who seem super confident and put together. Encouraging them is something I have started trying to work into my routine.

Being encouraged by a stranger also made me realize I could be an encouraging stranger to other moms.

Everyone needs to hear they are doing something right even if I never see them again. Telling the mom in front of us at church how well her kids behaved in service is an easy way to be an encouraging stranger. It felt weird at first, but I just try to remember how much it filled my heart to be told by a stranger how well I was doing.

So, even if no one rolls up in a lifted pickup truck today to tell you what a great mom you are, know that you are a great mom!

Kristin Wynalda

Kristin likes Agatha Christie mysteries, chai, and her job as a mom of four. She writes children's book reviews at bigbookslittleears.com.