So what does an only-child know about families with that many children? Um, well, not much of anything! So I'm glad someone wrote about it. And I'm glad that I didn't have to experience it. I mean, one or 2 siblings might have been cool. Maybe just one. Someone for me to beat up daily. It's not something that you grow out of, really...I mean, think about it. I've heard that the older folks get, the more they learn to appreciate their siblings. The older I get, well...eh, I don't think about it much. I've got zillions of cousins. But I suppose it's not the same. Guess it would be pretty boring if all families were the same.
And then there's Mrs. Mebane, the advocate for birth control who visits the Gilbreths in Chapter 7. Maria wrote this on the Phatmass Phorum in 2005:
The way it happens in the book is that someone refers Mrs. Mebane (the representative of national birth control organization) to Mrs. Bruce, Mother's best friend and mother of the second largest family in Montclair (8 children), as someone who might be interested in starting a local chapter. Mrs. Bruce states that she has several children and so it wouldn't be appropriate for her to head a local chapter, but refers Mrs. Mebane to Mother as "civic minded, career woman, and – most important of all – a large house", and even an organizer.That's some funny stuff right there. Speaking of funny stuff, I have a funny one for you. So, I'm going up to Iowa in October. The funny part is that I'm somehow the organizer for the Cedar Rapids location of the 22nd Annual National Life Chain. That's all I've got to say about that for now.
When Mrs. Mebane goes to the Gilbreth house and Mother learns that Mrs. Bruce recommended her, she mentions, somewhat astonished, that Mrs. Bruce already has 8 children.
Mrs. Mebane goes into shock, “My God” she said. “Not really.”
“How perfectly frightful. She impressed me as quite normal. Not at all like an eight-child woman. Think of it, living right here within eighteen miles of our national birth control headquarters in New York City, and her having eight children. Yes, there’s work to be done, Mrs. Gilbreth, and that’s why I’m here.”
She then asks Mother to spearhead a local chapter, and Mother decides that Dad would never forgive her if she didn't call him in. As she brought him to her she briefed him, and he greeted her with an “It’s a pleasure to meet a woman in such a noble cause”, which rather surprised her because most men weren't that into it. Then as she started getting into a schpeel on how birth control is so needed because children are horrible for women, Dad whistled Assembly (i.e., all the children have to assemble as quickly as possible), and Mrs. Mebane almost had a heart attack when she realized that they were all theirs, not an orphanage, and they had, let me see, twelve children? As Dad said, "How revolting. And within eighteen miles of national headquarters, too."