You are correct that tab controls were designed for form view rather than list view. But there are alternatives:
a) Instead of list view, you may be able to use form view and place "list view like" portals inside each panel of your tab control.
b) Many database layouts use a simulated tab control. What looks like file tabs in the header are really buttons designed to look like file tabs. Clicking the button then changes layouts to a layout with the same exact row of buttons in the header, but based on a different table and with body layout background color changed to match a different "tab" to simulate selecting a different file tab.
Thanks for the verification, Phil.
I'll experiment with a) first, since that seems the simplest workaround.